ninth symphony films - movie reviews

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (2002)


DIRECTOR  -  kevin reynolds

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  adventure

LENGTH  -  131 minutes

RELEASED  -  25 january 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  touchstone pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  count of monte cristo

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $35,000,000
the count of monte cristo - a shot from the film

BUY THE DVD:

buy the dvd from the count of monte cristo at amazon.com

buy the dvd from the count of monte cristo at amazon.com


SYNOPSIS:
a young man, falsely imprisoned by his jealous "friends," escapes and uses a hidden treasure to exact his revenge.




MOVIE FACT:
a funny goof: when count mondego is talking with monsieur de villefort in his office with the window open, you can just make out cars parked on the other side of the harbor.


MOVIE FOTOS:

picture from the count of monte cristo

picture from the count of monte cristo

picture from the count of monte cristo



RATING:


three out of four possible stars

This classic story of revenge has been brought to the screen more than two dozen times in the last one hundred years. And this latest version does the Alexandres Sumas novel justice. This version has a lot of wit and humor, balanced with some heavy subject matter that could have become too intense if not for the comedy. But the filmmakers the story with a lot of intelligence. It isn't over-complicated by a set of filmmakers looking to change the story into something "the audience has never seen before." Unlike last year's disappointing film, The Musketeer, which was also based on a Dumas novel, this movie gets all the elements right. The acting, the script, and the cinematography are put together with a lot of class. It's almost reminiscent of the swashbuckling films made during the studio days in Hollywood, the kind of movies with a lot of action, a little romance, and a sly sense of humor. This film contains all of those elements and is really quite an achievement, considering how many times this exact story has been brought to the screen.

And a lot of the success in this film is the result of some good casting and some actors who fill their roles so convincingly, it's almost a shame that we, as audience members, must say goodbye to them when the credits role. James Caviezel makes a convincing case as the wrongly imprisoned "Edmund Dantes" and Guy Pearce makes as equally a powerful performance as his accuser. These men together have the kind of chemistry which creates a real sense of conflict between the two. The relationship between them in the book makes for good reading, and translated to the screen ,with these two actors, it really comes alive. And that could be said for all of the performances in this film. Playing a more minor role, James Frain also makes a convincing case as one of the men who helps to imprison Edmund Dantes. As an actor always cast in supporting roles, Frain once again proves that he can shine even if he's not in the center of the spotlight. His appearance in the film creates a good balance with Guy and James in the other roles.

Though not everything about the film is on the strong, depressing side. An element of the film which was particularly welcome was the wry humor that crept into many of the scenes. Now, it wasn't the type of comedy you'd find on a SNL skit, but it made the film's serious scenes, of which there were many, more intense. Without that humor, the film might have been too serious, considering about a third of it takes place in one of the most desolate prisons ever depicted on screen. And the humor takes on more than one form. Not only is it derived sometimes from the dialogue spoken between the characters, but the laughs also come from the physical actions of the characters. Certain looks and movements made by the actors make for humor at the best moments. And again, this makes the more serious parts of the film stand out.

A lot of the credit for the success of this drama/comedy component probably should go to Richard Harris. His uncanny ability to include a serious emotion and a bit of humor into the same sentence is quite a talent. As one of the most venerated actors on the screen, Harris makes an impressive contribution to this cast. And his role is surprisingly physical as well. He's the fellow prisoner who, along with Edmund Dantes, tries to dig a tunnel out of the prison. The film's got Harris jumping in and out of dirt tunnels, picking up prison stones, and digging through the dirt. It's quite a feat that the seventy-one year old Harris is able to do all this. And this movement takes place during much of the conversation between Harris and Caviezel while they are in the prison, so that the dialogue that takes place between them never gets boring, as in some period films. And that can be a problem sometimes: long scenes and extensive dialogue, but in this film, the dialogue is balanced quite expertly with the action so that there is never a lack of either one.

A special mention has to go out to Luis Guzman as well, who plays a man indebted to Edmund Dantes, who spares his life during a fighting match. Luis could almost be considered the comedy relief in this film, as much as that type of character can be included in a period drama. Like Richard Harris, Luis has a few scenes where his character says something funny, but when he needs to be serious, he's just as effective as a dramatic actor. And like James Frain, Luis has gotten roles in all of his films in the supporting actor category. And although he might not be the only actor in the spotlight, he certainly provides a well-rounded element to this cast. Lastly, in the actor category, Dagmara Dominczyk plays her role, as one of the only women characters to make an appearance, with intelligence. She allows her character to display some wisdom, despite how women were treated a few hundred years ago in Europe. She isn't the picture of a modern 1990's feminist, but she gets her kicks in and makes sure that, as one of the only females, her role is still important to the film.

On the whole, this film contains all the elements of a good movie: the acting, the script, the cinematography, but the whole package creates something much more interesting and fun. And that last part, the fun of the movie, is really what makes this more than just a run of the mill swashbuckling film. The ability for these characters to laugh at their circumstances is perhaps what sets it apart from other films prone to taking themselves too seriously. The film as a whole is a truly entertaining experience in the theater and its strong cast is one of its high points.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.


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