Review of Time Bandits (1981)

Moving picture, 110 minutes

Terry Gilliam (director).

On the verge of sleep, a boy discovers that his suburban bedroom contains a “time portal”, one of many flaws in the fabric of the universe. Six dwarves who have been charged with repairing the holes are on the run from Yahweh because they decided to get rich quick instead. They drag the boy with them into a quest for treasure spanning thousands of years, extending even into the Time of Legends.

Child-friendly adventure with both Palin (also co-writer) and Cleese among the supporting actors.

Gilliam is a Borgesian expressionist, blending social conscience with grand pageantry and grotesquerie, often returning to such motifs as the Enlightenment (imagination under pressure), the homeless and the insane. Three of his better films, starting here, constitute a loose cycle depicting each major phase in life for the imaginative human in oppressive circumstances: Time Bandits about childhood, Brazil (1985) about adulthood and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) about old age and second childhood.

This early film does prefigure much of what follows with its surrealism, black humour and anti-commercial subversiveness. The ambivalent ending foreshadows Brazil in particular. However, there is a lot of slack and incoherence, and the indictment of Christianity is superficial.

References here: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Twelve Monkeys (1995), “The Wholly Family” (2011).

fiction moving picture