Time is a funny thing. All our lives weíre listening to that inexorable ticking going on inside us... itís time to eat, itís time to sleep, itís time to have a child, itís time to buy a house. Itís time to go to work, itís time to eat again, itís time to go to church, itís time for a holiday, itís time to tell the truth, itís time to die... and itís time I got on with it.
John Cleese plays Brian Stimpson, a stern headmaster who runs a tight ship. Never a fraction of a second late, this documents what happens when one simple mistake throws out an otherwise ordinary day in an extraordinary manner. Heading for a very important meeting 160 miles away, Stimpson accidently gets on the wrong train and itís one defeat after another as he struggles vainly to make it to the meeting by five oíclock.
John Cleese is at his fastidious best in this film and without him it wouldnít be half as funny. Supported by an able cast of lesser knowns, he is truly the focus of attention and we feel for him at every wrong turn as his frustration slowly builds up into a boiling cauldron of anger. Cleese has the most amazing inflection with the tiniest expressions, yet through these we can feel the multiple emotions swarming behind his eyes as he deals with the next insurmountable problem.
Itís a simple film with a running backstory that fills the storyline out nicely; without it the film would be rather dull. The fact that this story is growing out of control elsewhere - yet will affect Cleese in the end - also makes for funny stuff when we know even on top of his myriad problems now, there are far more to come.
Shot in 1985, the fashions are the slightest bit dated, but the storyline is one we can all recognise and sympathise with today (and no doubt for the rest of our lives). Itís a comedy that will make us laugh in that it has happened to all of us sometime or another. Perhaps not in this inconceivably complex manner, but it still has nonetheless.
Like I said, 1985. This usually means film artefacts and here they be. Occasional nasty vertical scratches on the print and the usual flecks and specks occur here and there. Still, itís not so bad and they donít overly affect the simple plot or scenes. There are a couple of detectable jitters and shakes, most notably at 50:49, but these are only slight and donít impede vision.
The picture quality isnít razor sharp, in fact a fair bit from it, but while appearing fairly soft edged it is still nice and clear for the most part. Some colours are a little faded and there are mostly earthy tones throughout intermixed with the luxuriant greens of the English countryside. Flesh tones are a little pale, but being England thatís forgiveable and shadows are all fairly well detailed. Blacks too are fairly accurately portrayed.
Spared-No-Expense Dolby Digital mono is employed throughout, but this is reasonably adequate for our purposes here. This is mostly visual or dialogue-driven humour without the need for staccato gunfire or rolling explosions and so the sound works well. The music is the only other dating factor here. Being 1985 the music reflects this accordingly (there are also numerous mullets throughout which I forgot to mention earlier).
Cleeseís voice is always clear and easily understood, even if we donít necessarily need to hear it to know whatís going on.
John Cleese is always a treat in this sort of long-suffering overwrought personality role and here he plays it masterfully. Given his usual flair and a free reign with the role, he brings the uptight and overwound character of Mr Stimpson to vibrant life. We can almost see the veins throbbing ever harder in his temples as the story progresses. A great movie for fans of his work or for anyone just wanting a nice, simple and easily watched film that doesnít ask for too much thinking. Unfortunately there are no real extras or subtitles, but the film itself has a rewatching capacity in itself and almost makes up for that.