The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Genre: Historical Thriller
Running Time: 128 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Directed............................. Kevin Reynolds
Screenplay........................ Jay Wolpert
James Caviezel............... Edmond Dantes
Guy Pearce....................... Fernand Mondego
Richard Harris................. Abbe Faria
James Frain..................... Villefort
Dagmara Dominczyk..... Mercedes
Luis Guzmán.................... Jacopo
The Count of Monte Cristo is the film translation of Alexandre Duma pere's 1844 novel of the same title. The themes of the story are so raw and thoroughly mined by Dumas as to make a Hollywood director weep for joy. It is a tale of love and revenge. Plain and simple.
The story begins as young sailor Edmond Dantes' ship comes in, both literally and figuratively. As he returns to port following the death of his captain, he is granted command of the Pharaon which grants him the financial freedom to finally wed the love of his life, Mercedes. Not everyone is happy for him, however. His shipmate and good friend Fernand Mondego is also deeply in love with Mercedes and jealous, despite his own riches, of Edmond's success. He and the local Magistrate, de Villefort, who also has good reason to fear and hate Edmond, conspire to have him accused of treason and summarily incarcerated. Without getting a chance to see his father or Mercedes, Edmond is thrown into the Chateau d'If, a cold, dark island prison where France keeps the prisoners it is ashamed of.
While in prison, Edmond meets the Abbe Faria, a wise old man, educated in the ways of the world. He agrees to teach Edmond to read, dissemble, reason and fight with unparalelled skill in return for his assistance in his planned escape. Edmond quickly learns everything the Abbe teaches him, eager to escape his brutal prison and put his new skills to use. Tragically, the Abbe dies in an accident and, on his deathbed, tells Edmond of a fortune hidden on the Island of Monte Cristo. Edmond contrives his own escape and, with the help of a young pirate named Jacopo, goes to claim his treasure. He discovers a fortune beyond compare, but more importantly, a means to exact his revenge.
The movie translation is fairly true to the novel up to a point. The problem that Kevin Reynolds, best known for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, faced was the scope of Dumas' novel. The friends I saw the movie with, both of whom had not read the book, said they enjoyed it thoroughly. However, it is simply impossible to truly capture Dantes' cold, implacable revenge in a two hour film. The novel is well over a thousand pages and superbly detailed. There is no way, short of making a 5 hours movie, to capture all the intricacies of Edmond's plans for Fernand and de Villefort. For those who have read the novel, the final third of the movie is a fairly disappointing, as everything comes to a head all of a sudden and seems to rush through to the end. On the upside, Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce give excellent performances as Edmond Dantes and Fernand Mondego. Both are extremely talented actors. Caviezel is probably best known from Frequency and Angel Eyes, while Pearce can be seen in L.A. Confidential and Memento. The supporting cast does an equally superb job, especially Richard Harris as the Abbe Faria. The film also has a very artsy cinematic quality. The contrast between the worlds inside and outside the Chateau d'If is splendid. Reynold's use of color and the intricate and beautifully designed sets make the film a real pleasure to watch.
The soundtrack, done by Edward Shearmur, can be found easily enough. The music was, in fact, fairly good. No pop hits or anything, but it supported the movie quite well. If you enjoyed this movie, I would also reccomend seeing The Man In the Iron Mask, which was excellent despite starring Leonardo DiCaprio, anything starring Guy Pearce, particularly Memento and L.A. Confidential, and Jim Caviezel's Frequency. All are superb movies.