Chaotic Glimpses of Genius: Our Review of ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - April 10, 2019
Chaotic Glimpses of Genius: Our Review of ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’

In this business, there’s projects that you just can’t shake…

While it’s rare to have a movie production that’s been in limbo for nearly 30 Years, it’s rarer to actually see it turned around and made.  Writer/Director Terry Gilliam finally conquered his white whale as The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is finally in theatres today for a special Cineplex Events theatre run in select screens all across Canada.  We’ll easily grant that this film doesn’t exactly evoke memories of Gilliam classics like Brazil or The Fisher King but it shows that he still has enough gas in the tank to make something delightfully weird.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is the story of Toby (Adam Driver), a cynical advertising director, who 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 adventures, Toby is forced to confront the tragic repercussions of a film he made in his idealistic youth – a film that changed the hopes and dreams of a small Spanish village forever. Can Toby make amends and regain his humanity? Can Don Quixote survive his madness and imminent death? Or will love conquer all?

Yeah…we’ll admit that this movie is a bit of a mess, but there’s something about a Terry Gilliam type of mess that still makes you want to watch it as the lines between fantasy and reality get blurred in a way that only he can.

This film was something of a legend before it even wrapped due to everything documented in the behind the scenes look of Lost In La Mancha and the issues that plagued the original iteration of this production.  Admittedly The Man Who Killed Don Quixote makes for a nice back end of a double bill with the doc but it also does stand on its own.  Gilliam tells an effective out of time story here that actually feels out of time and would have been more apt had it come in between Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

There’s a chaotic charm to Gilliam’s styling’s that might be a little out of style with current filmmaking motifs, but there’s no doubting that man’s talent not only for his visual work, but for making something that is genuinely funny at the same time.

His fun house mirror like gaze on a story like this can get a little tedious and ridiculous at times but it’s never something that we ever want to look away from either because we can relate to it.  The self-reflective moments about the stress of creativity and inspiration are deftly in Gilliam’s wheelhouse along with the blurring of lines between reality and the stress induced psychosis of our protagonist as he goes along on his journey.

There is a flaw of indulgence through the story as well, but it feels more like it’s by design rather than nauseating ego or tedium, because that indulgence is right at the core of the story that he is trying to tell.  The warts on this film are supposed to be there and that is what ultimately makes it feel like such a compelling, all be it nostalgic cinematic ride.

Adam Driver makes for a solid protagonist in the Gilliam world that he is building for us.  Crossing the lines between handsome, charismatic, insecure and neurotic Driver gives us his Toby who we don’t always like, but want to keep following down the rabbit hole that this story takes us on.

Meanwhile Jonathan Pryce subs in for the late Jean Rochefort donning the Quixote armor with glee, ultimately giving great balance to Driver’s character while a cavalcade of other interesting but smaller characters dive in and out of this story.

When all is said and done, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is hardly return to form from Gilliam’s heyday as a storyteller but it does enough right to prove to fans that he still has a little bit of juice left to tell a story that equals some of the great things that he’s ever worked on.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is having limited screenings at select Cineplex location’s, check their website for show times and be sure to stay through the end credits as there is a brief look behind the scenes making of the film.

  • Release Date: 4/10/2019
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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