– Summary –
Director : Kevin Reynolds
Year Of Release : 2002
Principal Cast : James Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain, Luis Guzman, Michael Wincott, Alex Norton, Henry Cavill.
Approx Running Time : 125 Minutes
Aspect Ratio : 1.85:1
Synopsis: Framed for a crime he did not commit, a man spends sixteen years in a French prison, before escaping to seek revenge on those who put him there.
What we think : Well acted dramatic classic is given some heft thanks to a few extra action sequences and the muscular performance of both Caviezel and Pearce, in opposition to each other, with an equally solid supporting cast going with them all the way. The direction is excellent, if unremarkable, and while moments tend to feel a little midday-movie-ish, the film barrels along, taking you on quite a ride of revenge.
Edmond Dantes (James Caviezel), a young clerk working for a trading company in France, bumps into Napoleon in exile on a prison island, and is given a letter to pass on to somebody on the mainland. Dantes’ best friend, Mondego (Guy Pearce), jealous of his friends success in life and lusting after the beautiful Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk), who is herself engaged to Dantes once he’s more financially secure. Betraying Dantes’ to the authorities for his dealings with Napoleon, Mondego marries Mercedes quickly, while Dantes is sent to the prison island Chateau d’If. There, Dantes spends 16 years plotting his revenge. While in prison, he meets an old priest (Richard Harris) who teaches him to read, write, and the ways of the world; all the while digging towards freedom. However, when the Priest is killed, Dantes uses this development to escape the island and return to Paris – the Priest tells him of the location of a famed treasure before he dies, so Dantes has an enormous wealth with which to put his plans into action. And he does – everyone involved in his betrayal, including Mondego and the police chief at the time, are pulled into his web of destruction.
This rousing edition of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel of vengeance and retribution, directed by Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Waterworld), is solid, well produced, and well acted – even if in the end, it’s entirely forgettable. That’s not saying this is a bad film; far from it. This version is a solid modern updating of the story, with some excellent production values thrown at it in order to sell the story. Leading man Jim Caviezel, whom most will remember played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ, does an earnest portrayal of the titular Count, his rapport with, and betrayal by, Guy Pearce utterly convincing – I think Pearce does the villainous part exceptionally well… he’s a vile, conniving and utterly empty human being, and Reynold’s ensures we despise him enough to applaud his eventual fate at the hands of Dantes. That’s the thing, I think – the film makes sure we want Dantes to win, we want him to succeed in destroying those who betrayed him. Had the film failed in making the baddies convincing, we might have felt Dantes was a little less righteous and a whole lot more corrupted; his retribution is deserved, and yet we must remember how much he was tortured and suffered for his revenge to pay off. Dagmara Dominczyk is luminous as Dantes’ fiancee, and Mondegos eventual wife, Mercedes, torn between her love for Dantes and the security of Mondego – also, keep an eye out for future Superman actor Henry Cavill in his film debut as Mercedes’ son, Albert. Richard Harris plays the doddery-yet-wiley fellow prisoner in the Chateau d’If really well, imbuing him with a frailty of body and a strength of will which counterpoints the character of Dantes during his stay in prison. The Count Of Monte Cristo has enough drama, action and humor to keep audiences unfamiliar with the story tuned to what happens next – even if some of the plot developments can be seen coming a mile away, the eventual unraveling of Dantes’ plan is thrilling to witness. The Count Of Monte Cristo is well worth a look.