Volume 91, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1998

Leave it to Weaver


Leo's iron-clad performance

©Etienne George
FOR THE LOVE OF FRANCE, PUT IT BACK ON! Leonardo DiCaprio, Gabriel Byrne and edward Atterton, stars of the Musketeerian adventure The Man in the Iron Mask witness what years in an iron mask and no Nivea can do to a man.

By Christina Vardanis

Gazette Staff

Leonardo DiCaprio pandemonium has hit the masses as hard as the Titanic hit the iceberg, but has failed to recognize one tiny detail about the newest sex symbol – he's a fantastic actor.

In The Man in the Iron Mask, written and directed by Randall Wallace, DiCaprio holds his own and in many moments actually outshines his veteran co-stars, proving he is much more than a dark ship passing in the night.

The film tells the tale of four Musketeers, played marvelously by John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne and Gerard Depardieu. All are a little grayer, a little heavier around the middle and a little slower to the draw – reunited to save their country from the oppression and brutality under young King Louis XIV (DiCaprio).

Louis begins his reign by imprisoning his secret twin brother, Phillippe, in an iron mask, so as not to pose a threat to his inheritance. While Louis is busy ravishing young beauties, feasting on the finest meals and killing innocent peasants, the Musketeers devise an elaborate plan to rescue Phillippe and return him to the throne.

Separating this movie from the usual "good guy/bad guy" sword-fighting adventure flick, is an incredibly complex and romantic story. "All for one and one for all" isn't as black and white as it used to be for the Musketeers; patriotism, treason and loyalty are all mixed in. But once the swords are down and that famous oath is taken, they battle until the end with the same passion and valour that made them legendary.

Byrne gives an especially gut-wrenching performance as D'Artagnan, the one Musketeer who remains faithful to the King, despite his tyrannical acts. Aramis (Irons), Athos (Malkovich) and Porthos (Depardieu) round out the gang of swashbuckling heroes. For a touch of comic relief, these experienced actors play with fabled 'Musketeerian' antics and slip into the old mischievous ways that made them not only soldiers, but brothers.

DiCaprio's performance is nothing short of spectacular, as he tackles three roles.

First, there is the evil King, who makes no attempt to hide his inhumanity. Second, there is the same King but with a twist of charm, important for wooing the ladies and convincing D'Artagnan he is on the road to repentance. Third, DiCaprio delivers Phillippe, the clumsy, frightened and enigmatic prisoner, who, by some magical genetic feat, remains pure and good-hearted despite his tortured existence. It is with a mere blink of an eye that DiCaprio sets these characters apart, so much so that if all three were together on a split screen in the same costume and pose, there would be no doubt as to who was who.

There are, however, minor setbacks to certain parts of the film. Wallace, last credited with scripting Braveheart, at times struggles with the dialogue. Emotionally-laden lines appear forced and are typical of any pre-Monty Python medieval drama. The first half hour moves slowly, but this is partly due to the clever positioning of subtle clues teasing the audience with the larger story at hand.

These slight imperfections in no way interfere with the fact that this movie is down-home, castle-charging, honour-battling fun. All for one and one for all, The Man in the Iron Mask has everything for everybody.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998