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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Count of Monte Cristo. Kevin Reynolds (Director). Touchstone Pictures (2002)

A superb swashbuckler,great performances drive a classic story with vigour, wit and passion. Edmond Dantes(Jim Caviezel) is falsely accused and imprisoned in the fearsome Chateau d'If, an island fortress. Here he is brutally treated by the wonderfully sardonic warden, Armand Dorleac(Michael Wincott)and encounters another prisoner, Abbé Faria(Richard Harris). The Abbe agrees to teach Edmond in return for his help in digging an escape tunnel. Dantes does finally escape with the secret to a fabulous treasure and returns to France as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. He follows his plan to revenge himself upon his accusers and his ex-fiancee. The action is superbly staged, the plot drives at a great pace and the conclusion deeply satisfying.
While Jim Caviezel is better at being the innocent Edmond rather than the driven count he is still worth watching, the real star of the film is Guy Pearce as Fernand Mondego,a man consumed by bitter envy at the way Dantes can enjoy his humble life. Guy Pearce glows with a resentment that creates the emotional context for the film, he is simply astonishing. His final confrontation with the returned Dantes is brilliant, it has a depth of passion and rage that are electrifying.
Richard Harris as the Abbe is clearly enjoying himself and his humour is grimly enjoyable. Michael Wincott is a joy as the mordantly sarcastic warden, he has a relish for his activities that is amusing and horrifying. Dagmara Dominczyk as Mercedès Iguanada, Dantes fiancee who marries Fernand Mondego believing Dantes is dead, is more than a romantic toy. She reveals a very welcome strength and depth of character.
This is a hugely enjoyable film, it takes the classic adventure story and cleverly distills it into crisp romantic tale, a pleasure.

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