Monty Python. Since 1969, they have brought their surreal sense of humour to the world with reactions of both pure joy and utter bewilderment. Yet what is most impressive about the 4 (formerly 5) men who make up this group is that they each do just as well individually. Such is the case with Terry Gilliam’s relatively obscure 1981 film “Time Bandits” which was a continuation of his much praised directing career.
We follow 6 dwarves and a young boy named Kevin as they run through time avoiding the Great Intelligence whose map they stole, whilst also partaking in some light robbery. One of the benefits of using time travel as a plot device is that it allows you to have a multi-arc story with 1 solid narrative, as opposed to the 3 act structure many audiences are used to. Gilliam takes great advantage of this starting in Kevin’s remarkably mundane house before giving us a very drunk, very heightest Napoleon. From here its onto the fearsome Sherwood Forest, with some of the toughest men that a ridiculously polite Robin Hood could find, before Kevin is inevitably separated from the group into Ancient Greece. In my opinion, the meat of the story starts here with the introduction of the personification of Evil and his frankly magnificent fortress, where he slyly tries to guide our troop. This is of course after a brief stop on the SS Titanic.
A further benefit of time travel is the ability to show off a variety of costumes. Accurately designed, beautifully made periodic pieces which show just how much Gilliam cares, not only about his work, but also our investment in it. The entire scene on the Titanic seems only to exist as an excuse to get our heroes into tuxedos before the climax and it is absolutely worth it. When it comes to Period Accuracy though, Gilliam could very well have lost points by casting Sean Connery as a Greek King. His illustrious Scottish accent is in full swing here, which really should distract from the story, but I don’t find that to be the case. In fact it is this very accent, as well as his soothing tones, that give his character such warmth and kindness. The last thing I want to gush over is the practical effects, which only properly falter with the Minotaur. It could not be more obviously a man in a mask, however given the Pythons’ history and that darn BBFC with their ratings system, I find it to be part of the films charm. Everywhere else you’ll find a sweeping landscape, an on-set explosion and a wearable boat for a hat. Even the pig, horses and tank in the climax were all really on set.
You’ll notice I haven’t properly discussed his films climax and there’s a good reason for that. It’s nuts. Even if I told you every painstaking detail, I could not get across the utter absurdity of this climax. I a way, that really is this film in a nutshell. I can gush over the acting, effects, fashion and story as much as I want but its absurdity and plot twists are a sight to behold. Hence the reason I haven’t gone to greater lengths with this review, I really don’t want to spoil it. Time Bandits has to be seen to be believed.
Until Next Time…