Running Time: 131 mins
There have been four films made about the Count of Monte Cristo. To separate out his film from the others, director Kevin Reynolds has entitled his, "Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo." The addition to the title is telling.
In every way this classic story of an honest and honourable man who is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, is faithful to its sources. This is a sumptuous film made with a meticulous attention to detail. Filmed on location in Ireland and Malta the sets and costumes are a feast for the eyes.
Dumas' story concerns Albert (Caviezel) who is suspected of being a sympathiser with the discredited Napoleon Bonaparte. Just as he is cleared of the charges, the evil Villefort (James Frain) conspires with the jealous Fernand (Pearce) to deport him to the hellhole prison of Chateau D'I. Here Albert meets the holy and good Abbe Faria (Harris) who sets him free in
more ways than one. After his escape Albert is reincarnated as the Count of Monte Cristo and plans his revenge on the despotic Villefort and his one-time friend Fernand.
There are two aspects to this restaging of a well-known yarn that make it such a joy. The stylised acting is perfectly pitched, suiting the period and the story and yet Reynolds's tight direction saves any performance from descending to pantomime. Jim Caviezel shows a fine dramatic range as Albert. Richard Harris is touching and brilliant as the good priest. Guy
Pearce plays Fernand in a highly camp way which gives this character a sexual as well as a moral ambiguity. James Frain is the face of evil.
With screen writer Jay Wolpert, Reynolds remains loyal to Dumas' book, but is not enslaved by it. They introduce, for example, vernacular turns of phrase or expressions that show off the humour Dumas originally achieved in his novel. These moments come as welcome surprises in what is a passionate and intense story.
If you remember the swash buckling fun of any of the former Monte Cristo films, then pack up your older children and take them to see this old fashioned tale of faith and freedom
Richard Leonard SJ