17th Jul2019

‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Adam Driver, José Luis Ferrer, Ismael Fritschi, Juan López-Tagle, William Miller, Will Keen, Jason Watkins, Paloma Bloyd, Olga Kurylenko, Joana Ribeiro | Written by Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni | Directed by Terry Gilliam

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Terry Gilliam’s’ long-delayed rendition of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has taken over twenty-eight years to come to fruition, but alas, after multiple delays, a stroke and, a lawsuit against a release, Gilliam’s film has finally been released for all to see, albeit in an incredibly diluted and sadly quiet fashion. For a film that has almost killed three cast members involved in a life span of thirty years any film of such high esteem and high calibre ought to be worth viewing alone for the pain and pressure that went into realising such a project, but unfortunately, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is all seemingly inconsequential.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote lacks the visual embellishment of any of Gilliam’s best. Gone is the abstract visual aesthetic found in his best work in the likes of Brazil, Time Bandits, or even his more restrained work in his underrated time-travelling masterpiece 12 Monkeys. With the lack of said visual embellishment, the film doesn’t particularly have a distinctive personality or charm. Therefore, the film comes across quite quaint and dull; especially the cinematography from Nicola Pecorini, which never provokes any sense of intrigue or temperament. Failing to substantiate the quite staggering locations integrated into the film or the intensity of the frantic energy the feature most definitely holds but just isn’t coaxed out.

Not necessarily the most damning of critiques, as long as the material suffices with a significant interest or spellbinding entertainment value. However, the writing constantly struggles to engage with the audience. There is no sense of personage or flair. The screenplay from Gilliam and Tony Grisoni fails to capitalise on either the ridiculousness or farcical personality of the events and characters. Ultimately creating a void of an uninteresting debacle that sadly just drags and drags until its enigmatic and flat finish.

If anything, the performances do salvageThe Man Who Killed Don Quixote from a doomed train wreck. Adam Driver, in particular, is wonderfully cocky and delightfully robust as egomaniac film director Toby. His arc is fulfilling and his journey insightful. Driver balances a wonderfully enigmatic and comedic sense of moral ambiguity and with that, you have this engaging sense of needing to see more and more delirium as it unfolds. Jonathan Pryce as the titular character puts forth a compelling turn that hasn’t got a great deal of excess thematic weight behind it, however, contextually the writing plays out with such a factor as a strength.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is available (in the US) on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital now.

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One Response to “‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Review”

  • Pendragon

    I loved this film – true, it takes a while to gain traction with the narrative, but once running, it was charming and although not as surreal as his other works, Gilliam manages to bring an air of other-worldliness towards the climax. The performances were sublime – Driver especially delivers, especially after his badly drawn Kylo-Ren role.
    It’s a film that demands a second viewing, as there is much imagery underlying the foreground visuals.
    It’s not quite the magnu opus I expected, but still pure Gilliam at his most subtle. :)