Timeline is a 2003 science fiction/fantasy film, directed by Richard Donner. It stars Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor, Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, Gerard Butler and Anna Friel. It is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. Jerry Goldsmith was originally set to score, which would have been Goldsmith’s last score before his death in 2004, but was replaced by Brian Tyler, after being rejected by Donner.
In present-day France, archaeologist/professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly) and his students are excavating a site near the ruins of Castlegard. The village had been burned in 1357 when a massive battle occurred at nearby La Roque Castle, during The Hundred Years War. Even though the English were strong, the French were able to defeat them. Lady Claire (Anna Friel), the sister of Arnaut de Cervole, was hanged by the English at the castle in full view of the French. This enraged the French so much that they won the battle against the English.
Johnston and his students Kate Erickson (Frances O’Connor) and André Marek (Gerard Butler) live for the past. Johnston’s son Chris (Paul Walker) does not share this passion but he visits his father from time to time. He’s stayed on this dig longer to be with Kate, on whom he has a crush. At one point while showing him a sarcophagus of a man and woman who have their hands folded into each other, Marek tries to explain to Chris that our future lies in the past. They notice that the man sculpted on the sarcophagus has no right ear: it was crafted that way.
Johnston has become suspicious of the tips he’s been given on where to dig on the site by his sponsor, ITC Corp., so he returns to the U.S. to find out the source of their information. While the professor is away, Marek and Kate discover an old parchment along with a present-day bifocal lens. Examination shows a note on the document, pleading for help, written by the professor — but it was dated April 4, 1357. Confused, Chris tries to call his father, but he’s told his father is no longer there. ITC does, however, invite Chris and the students to its base in New Mexico.
There, they learn time travel is possible and Johnston is now trapped in 1357 near Castlegard — exactly the spot of the excavations. ITC has been attempting to essentially teleport objects and have succeeded in doing so across a room. In an attempt to do so across the country, they happened upon a wormhole that, for some reasons unknown at the time, opens into 1357. Since the students are the closest thing to experts on the location and the time period, they are asked to go back in time and rescue Johnston. With the exception of team physicist, David Stern (Ethan Embry), they agree and are joined by security man Frank Gordon (Neal McDonough) and ex-military personnel Jimmy Gomez and Bill Baretto. They are given several markers that, at the push of the button, will bring them back home, and are told if they aren’t back in six hours, they might not be able to return at all.
They arrive in a rushing river. Once on land, they find themselves in the middle of a battle between the English and the French. Gomez is quickly cut down, and Baretto — just as he is about to throw a grenade — is struck with arrows and uses his marker to return to the present. Marek is caught up in the battle and saves the Lady Claire (Anna Friel) by slaying a knight who was attacking her. She brings Marek and the others to the village of Castlegard, but they’re overheard talking to her brother Arnaut by an English spy and captured by the English.
They’re seen as spies and are brought before the English Lord Oliver de Vannes (Michael Sheen), who kills one of the students, Frenchman François Dontelle (Rossif Sutherland).
The group is reunited in prison with Johnston and devises an escape plan based on their knowledge of the day’s events. Unfortunately, they don’t take into account that their presence has already changed the timeline.
Meanwhile in the present day, Baretto returns to the laboratory and dies, the grenade in his hand exploding and severely damaging the machines. Stern, ITC president Robert Doniger (David Thewlis), and vice-president Steven Kramer (Matt Craven) work as hard as they can to fix them, but the rather amoral Doniger prepares to write the students off as “lost”.
The time travelers are forced to remain involved in the battle and are able to change history by saving Lady Claire’s life. At the same time, they learn of the presence of former ITC employee William Decker (Marton Csokas), who has stayed in the past (and is now known as Sir William DeKere) because damage to his internal organs indicates another jump will kill him. This flaw — which damages internal organs — in time travel was withheld from them by Doniger. Gordon was responsible for abandoning Decker when he traveled with him in the first place when Gordon chose to save his own life. This is revealed earlier when Chris catches Gordon for trying to abandon them and travel back to the present.
Decker kills Gordon and steals all but one of the markers, forcing the professor and Marek to fight against the French, while Chris and Kate fight with the French against him and Oliver’s English forces. At a church near Castle La Roque, the pair discover a tunnel leading into La Roque and tell Lord Arnaut (Lambert Wilson), the French commander, of the tunnel. Arnaut and Chris fight their way through English forces. Chris, caught by Lord Oliver, is saved by Arnaut and quickly rushes to join Kate. Chris, Johnston, and Kate can return home. Marek, who has discovered his destiny, and essentially the reason for the wormhole’s existence, gives Chris the last marker and remains behind with his newfound love, Lady Claire. Doniger tries to stop them returning but Stern rushes to stop him and he gets trapped in the machine. As the students and the professor return, Doniger is sent back and is killed by an approaching knight.
Back in present-day France, Kate finishes the dig on the sarcophagus by the old Castle La Roque. She and Chris are now dating as well. The inscription revealed on the sarcophagus is of Marek and Lady Claire, whose three children were named Christophe, Katherine, and François. Marek tells his surviving friends he chose a wonderful life, although he lived only twenty-five years longer in the harsh medieval world.