Film review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

The man who killed Don Quixote

The man who killed Don Quixote - Credit: Archant

Terry Gilliam’s modern twist on the 17th classic is flawed but wonderfully wacky.



Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Starring: Adam Driver, Jason Watkins, Jonathan Pryce, Jordi Molla, Olga Kurylenko,

Length: 135 min

Finally securing its World Premiere in the prestigious closing slot at this year’s Cannes Film Festival Highgate director Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited passion project sees Adam Driver’s jaded advertising executive jump back and forth in time between present day London and 17th century La Mancha where he is mistaken for Sancho Panza, as truth and reality gradually collide.

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Despite its flaws and indulgent running time, Gilliam almost returns to form with a wonderfully wacky and refreshingly modern take on Miguel Cervantes’ likeable classic that still resonates today with its universal appeal and simple 17th century premise: that Chivalry should not die out in the ‘modern age’.

Toby, a cynical advertising director on location for a shoot, finds himself trapped in the outrageous delusions of an old Spanish shoe-maker who believes himself to be Don Quixote. In the course of their comic and increasingly surreal encounter, Toby is forced to confront the tragic repercussions of a film he made back in his idealistic youth - a film that changed the hopes and dreams of a small Spanish village forever. Can Toby redeem himself and touch base with his humanity? Can Don Quixote survive dementia and imminent death? Will love conquer all?

The tone is unflinchingly upbeat with a bonkers bravura that unfolds in some striking locations such as Spain’s Castillo-La Mancha, and Portugal’s atmospheric Convento de Cristo, in Tomar. Although Gilliam’s take is entirely original in a script co-written with Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) there are nods to Orson Welles’ valiant unfinished stab at the story that started in 1957 but gradually ran out of steam 20 years later .

The Man who Killed Don Quixote has also been two decades in the making with top acting talent attached to the project over the years in the shape of John Hurt, Robin Williams and even Robert Duvall. An international cast that includes Rossy de Palma, Stellan Skarsgard and Olga Kurylenko is led by veteran Jonathan Pryce whose endurance has stood the test of time and who captures Don Quixote with a persevering swagger and a charming exuberance that captures the mood of this entertaining escapade.

Meredith Taylor