The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a fun film guaranteed for cult status among film fans but not the masterpiece that it couldn’t been back in the day. Then again, what can you expect of a film that has been in development hell for almost 30 years?
Although the project has suffered, and fans still dream of what could have been, Terry Gilliam provides an enjoyable but loose adaption of the book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes that is filled with a convoluted plot, dream sequences, impressive action scenes, and a couple of questionable romances.
The story follows commercial film director, Toby (Adam Driver), who is tasked with filming an advertisement for a big account featuring the characters Don Quixote and his noble sidekick, Sancho Panza.
The irony is that the film shoot is in the same village where Toby used local actors to direct a student art house film on Don Quixote ten years prior.
Toby escapes his set after feeling stressed out and decides to go on a nostalgic trip to rediscover the area and people he worked with, eventually discovering that his project had a detrimental impact on the locals.
He discovers soon that Angelica (Joana Ribeiro), the now 25-year-old love interest of Toby, whom he met on set from his original film and was smitten with, has left the town to pursue a decadent lifestyle.
Toby then discovers the second victim of his artistic pursuit, Javier (Jonathan Pryce), the lowly cobbler who never left his role and still believes that he is the real Don Quixote.
After a series of comical events, which includes a fire and police chase, the two protagonists are set off on an adventure to rescue Angelica (and Dulcinea del Toboso?) from the clutches of an evil Russian oligarch, all while Toby is trying to get himself and Javier back to their respective places.
Even though the plot is entertaining enough for the movie to work, it really isn’t the strong suit of the overall film. It is clever enough in the way that it presents itself, shifting between reality and fantasy worlds; however, it is formulaic in the extent that you determine what happens (cough title of film cough) and recalls back to the plot of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The use of few jokes, appearing sparingly throughout the film, doesn’t strengthen the film either.
The movie is also interspersed with fantastical dream sequences that play a part of the story that harken back to the aesthetic of the original book, such as the famous windmill scene and the armor worn by Don Quixote.
The movie’s strength; however, lies within the individual performances. Jonathan Pryce, a Gilliam regular, is an absolute delight, bringing much life to the character of Don Quixote and absurdity in the film.
Adam Driver also provides a stellar performance as Toby/Sancho Panza. Driver shows audiences that he has the skillset to be able to perform in different genres, establishing himself similarly to Adrian Brody within the field.
The film also boasts an impressive and interesting supporting cast including Stellan Skarsgard and Olga Kurylenko. The casting of local actors, such as Joana Ribeiro, Jordi Molla (from Blow), and Sergi Lopez (from Pan’s Labyrinth) is also a treat for fans of both fantasy and foreign films.
Additional aspects of the movie, such as custom and set designs of the movie, as well as the natural scenery of the Canary Islands, are definitely worth the view and pleasantly adds on to overall experience of the movie.
Overall, if you are looking for a fun and entertaining period piece, a follower of the Gilliam School of Film, or just something completely different, then definitely check out The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
It’s not going to be winning any awards any time soon, but it definitely put a smile on my face and made me nostalgic for the action adventure comedy flicks. I give it a solid B.