Sunday, October 23, 2005

[DVD] The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Alexandre Dumas is probably more famous for his The Three Muskateers, and in the last decade, that movie has been remade in its latest incantation starring Charlie Sheen, Oliver Platt and Kiefer Sutherland in the title roles, with Chris O'Donnell as D'artagnan. Hollywood followed that up with The Man in the Iron Mask, with strong character actors like Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu flanking Leonardo DiCaprio as King Louis XIV/Philippe.

Adapting from yet another Dumas story, The Count of Monte Cristo continues the tradition of a strong cast in the likes of Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce in lead roles, with Michael Wincott and Richard Harris in bit roles.

Set in the era of Napoleon's exile from France, this movie tells the story of good friends Edmond Dantes (Caviezel) and Fernand Mondego (Pearce). The former is an ordinary lad with no status and of simple mind, but has incredible luck shining upon him, while the latter is the son of a Count, and harbours a great envy for his friend.

And the worst enemy would always be your best friend, so the saying goes, as Mondego plots with fellow collaborators and frames Dantes for treason, and gets him imprisoned on an island, and makes Dantes' fiance his wife.

For 13 years, Dantes becomes disillusion while whipped on the anniversary of his imprisonment (yes, even before his Passion of the Christ role), but chance would have that he befriends a fellow prisoner, a priest who teaches him how to read, write, fight, fence, and various subjects of the world, for the return favour of helping him dig a tunnel to escape. A miraculous escape opportunity presented itself, and the priest reveals to Dante the map of secret treasure on the island of Monte Cristo.

Naturally, everything has changed since the last he stepped foot on Marseille, and Dantes plots revenge, to take away everything from his enemies, like what they did to him. Hence, the Count of Monte Cristo is born, and so begins the meticulous execution of his plan. Weaved into the plot is the love story between Dantes and Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk), with a now familiar revelation that countless other movies and books have adapted from.

If you've read Dumas' classic, you would already know the details of the plot. But what delivers here is the excellent acting, and beautiful sets. Definitely a must watch. My only regret was not being able to watch it in the local theatres when it was released, because of its short run. A real pity.

Code 1 DVD Extras: Audio commentary by the director, 4 deleted scenes, and plenty of making-of featurettes.

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