ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
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|The Count of Monte Cristo
Guy Pearce, Jim Caviezel, Richard Harris, Luis Guzman, Dagmara
Directed By: Kevin Reynolds
Three 1/2 stars (out of five)
By Brent Carpenter
Gazette File Photo
The Count of Monte Cristo is a thoroughly satisfying
swashbuckler that manages to rise above other recent failures of its genre
and stands on its own as a quality example of Victorian-era escapism at
Luckily for director Kevin Reynolds, the movie plays more like his
adventurous Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and less like his big-budget
Based on Alexandre Dumas' classic novel, the film is a light combination
of action/adventure and historical drama that never takes itself too
seriously. At the same time, it explores colourful characters and
situations that generally hold the viewers' attention throughout.
As a result, Monte Cristo avoids the fate of many other hollow,
pretentious Hollywood costume parties and ensures everyone from the cast
to the viewer comes out a winner.
Jim Caviezel stars as Edmund Dantes, an innocent young sailor framed for
treason by his own best friend, the entirely evil and self-serving Fernand
Mondego (Memento's Guy Pearce).
Shipped off to the infamous island prison of Chateau D'If, Dantes soon
finds he has nothing left but his lust for revenge on the man who robbed
him of everything.
While incarcerated, Edmund encounters Faria (Richard Harris), a once proud
soldier in the service of Napoleon Bonaparte who, like Edmund, was sold
out by a friend and unjustly exiled to the hostile island prison.
In a clichéd, but essential, Zorro-esque training scene, the old soldier
teaches his new protegé the tricks of the trade, foreshadowing the
Of course, Edmund eventually escapes and – with the aid of the wise and
kind-hearted Faria – he transforms into the mysterious Count of Monte
Upon his return to civilization, however, Edmund discovers Mondego has
also become a Count and has married Dantes' former fiancée, the beautiful
Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk).
The superb cast does an excellent job driving the plot. Admittedly, the
story can drag, but never so much that it poses any threat to the final
Jim Caviezel (Pay It Forward, The Rock) is surprisingly effective as the
leading man and continues to carve himself a nice little filmography.
Dantes' transition from quiet sailor to revenge-driven ball of rage to
charming Count is an always believable pleasure to watch.
Guy Pearce turns in yet another show-stealing performance as the ferocious
Mondego, proving his ability to play either low-key supporting role or
The always entertaining Richard Harris plays Faria with a quiet humour
mixed with an underlining sadness and proves that, at 71, he is still one
of the most talented supporting players working in film today.
Even Dagmara Dominczyk is given a rare opportunity for a female in this
genre – the story allows her to play Mercedes as a real character equal to
the men. She is a strong female lead who makes her own decisions and
stands up for her beliefs in love and family.
Aside from the intriguing story and stellar cast, the film contains
beautiful landscape cinematography by Andrew Dunn that only adds to the
feel of the adventure.
In an early scene, Napoleon, exiled on the island of Elba, tells Dantes,
"In life, we are either kings or pawns." The Count of Monte Cristo
is the consistently entertaining story of a pawn who became a king.