Jerry Goldsmith composed the original score, which would have been his last before his death in 2004, but it was replaced with a new score by Brian Tyler, after the first cut was re-edited and Goldsmith's increasing health problems did not allow him to continue. The film was poorly received by critics and was a box office failure.
Professor Edward Johnston leads an archaeological study of the village of Castlegard near LaRoque Castle in Dordogne, France, the site of the 1357 hanging of Lady Claire, sister to Arnaut de Cervole; her martyrdom led the French to win the Hundred Years War against the English. Johnston's team includes Scottish archaeologist André Marek, Johnston's students Kate Erickson, Josh Stern, and François Dontelle, and his son Chris who is infatuated with Kate. While excavating a nearby monastery, they find a sarcophagus with the remains of a French knight with a lopped ear holding the hand of his lady, an unheard-of practice for the time. Johnston travels to the American headquarters of the ITC Corporation, their sponsor, to question if they have tampered with the site. The students later discover a pair of Johnston's bifocals and a note begging for help, though both date over 600 years old. When they contact ITC, the company invites them to their headquarters.
There, the team is introduced to ITC president Robert Doniger and vice-president Steven Kramer. Doniger reveals that in the process of developing teleportation technology, they locked onto a stable wormhole to 1357 Castlegard. Johnston was invited to see the past for himself but his group has not returned and they want the students to go back in time to locate him. All but Josh volunteer to go. They are stripped of all modern technology save for pendant-shaped markers they can use to initiate their return. The students are joined by a security team including head of security Frank Gordon and two former military men.
On arrival in 1357, they find themselves in the path of a young woman chased by English knights; the security men are killed while protecting the group, though one has activated their marker shortly after priming a grenade. When his body arrives in the present, the grenade detonates and shatters much of the teleportation device. Josh aids Kramer to help make repairs.
The team evade the knights, and are led by the woman to the English-controlled Castlegard. They are captured and brought before Lord Oliver de Vannes and his second in command, DeKere. They are stripped of their markers, and de Vannes kills François, believing him to be a French spy. The others are imprisoned along with Johnston. They make their escape but are pursued by the English. Gordon and Johnston are recaptured while the others make for the monastery, led by the woman. DeKere reveals himself to Gordon as former ITC employee Decker; he had frequently used the teleportation device but was not told by ITC that each use damaged his DNA until it was too late, at which point he would die on a return trip. He plans revenge on ITC and kills Gordon. De Vannes orders his knights to march on LaRoque castle, and DeKere brings Johnston along.
At the monastery, Marek, Kate, and Chris meet de Cervole, and realize the woman is Lady Claire; they have changed history by saving her. Marek, who has become infatuated with Lady Claire, is given a horse to rescue his friends. Kate and Chris help to swing the upcoming battle in the French's favor by leading de Cervole's men through the monastery tunnels they had previously mapped to the castle. As the battle starts, Marek is captured in his rescue attempt, and Lady Claire is also kidnapped. Marek manages to free himself, Lady Claire and Johnston, while Chris helps de Cervole defeat de Vannes. Enraged, DeKere slashes off Marek's earlobe; Marek realizes he is destined to be the knight in the sarcophagus. He defeats DeKere and recovers the markers, giving them to the others and says his goodbyes as he runs off to help the French assure victory and restore history.
As the three activate their markers, in the present Josh and Kramer have finished the repairs after coming to learn that Doniger has attempted to sabotage their attempts; he fears that when the students' stories become public, ITC will suffer great financial losses. As the machine activates, Doniger races into it, attempting to block the teleportation, but instead he is sent back to 1357, where he is quickly killed on the battleground. Chris, Kate, and Johnston safely return. Later, the team returns to Castlegard and reexamine the sarcophagus, finding that Marek and Lady Claire led a prosperous life after the war and had three children: Christophe, Katherine, and François.Paul Walker as Chris Johnston
Frances O'Connor as Kate Ericson
Gerard Butler as André Marek
Billy Connolly as Professor Edward A. Johnston
David Thewlis as Robert Doniger
Anna Friel as Lady Claire
Neal McDonough as Frank Gordon
Matt Craven as Steven Kramer
Ethan Embry as Josh Stern
Michael Sheen as Lord Oliver de Vannes
Lambert Wilson as Lord Arnaud de Cervole
Marton Csokas as Sir William De Kere/William Decker
Rossif Sutherland as François Dontelle
Patrick Sabongui as Jimmy Gomez
Steve Kahan as Baker
The battle sequences used medieval reenactors. Richard Donner limited the use of CGI in the film as much as possible.
Composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously collaborated with Donner on The Omen, completed a score for the film, but had it replaced by a different score composed by Brian Tyler after Donner was forced to re-cut the film at the insistence of Sherry Lansing, the then-head of Paramount Pictures.. However, both Goldsmith and Tyler's scores were released on CD.
Timeline was panned by most critics and did poorly at the box office, only recouping $43 million worldwide from a budget of $80 million. The film also received an 11% fresh rating on film website Rotten Tomatoes based on 140 reviews, stating that this "incoherently plotted addition to the time-travel genre looks and sounds cheesy".