Film Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

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A film that was 29 years in the making was always going to have trouble living up to expectations. Considering that this is a fairly faithful retelling of a tales of Don Quixote, it can be said that this was over 400 years in the making. Any way you slice it, it’s an impressive undertaking but just because you’ve hooked a big fish doesn’t mean you can reel it in. So how well does Terry Gilliam succeed now that his white whale is finally conquered?

This film is a love letter in every sense of the word. Those familiar with the story of Don Quixote will witness a honest yet inventive retelling of the story of the ever-delusional hero of chivalry. For those not familiar, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote follows Toby Grisoni (Adam Driver) an advertising executive stuck in a creative rut. While filming a commercial in Spain he comes across the town of Los Suenos, a small village in which Toby had once filmed a small student film on Don Quixote. Trying to get his creative mojo back he travels to the town to discover how things have changed due to the effects of his work so long ago.

An elderly cobbler, Javier (Jonathan Pryce), who Toby cast as Don Quixote now believes he is the fictional character. Upon reuniting with Toby, Javier mistakes him for his squire Sancho. A series of events sees Javier and Toby encounter a number of bizarre scenarios while Toby tries to make Javier see he is not Don Quixote while Javier pursues adventure and hijinks, convinced that he is.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is fun, ridiculous, curious and offbeat. It effectively tells the story of Don Quixote twice in the mixing of Javier’s warped fantasy and Toby’s just as quizzical reality. With one believing he is Don Quixote and the other living out his fantastical exploits. Adam Driver is an absolute strength in this film. His mannerisms and personality come to the fore and help carry the emotion and humour in both subtle and extravagant ways.

This film does suffer from flaws that I could only expect from something that took 29 years to make. For all its fun and frivolity, the movie seems somewhat jumbled together. A bunch of good and ambitious ideas that got lost in the wash after two decades or rewrites and editing. The film is 132 minutes long. Sometimes you can come across films that deserve their running time, this is not one of them. It seems that over 29 years, more and more ideas have been heaped on this movie without the ability to properly fine tune.

Fans of director Terry Gilliam and his style of comedy I believe will eat up his latest entry and for the most part it’s well deserved. This film is a Terry Gilliam great through and through its only flaws can be attributed to side effects of an ungodly long production. If nothing else the film is a representation of itself and the pains and trials of spending a lifetime to realise a dream. 

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Terry Gilliam realises a 30 year dream 4 stars

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