Dir.: Kevin Reynolds
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Domińczyk, Richard Harris, Michael Wincott, JB Blanc, Luis Guzmán and James Frain
First thing is first, this isn’t really a review per se, more of a discussion focusing on one particular aspect of the story as it is on page and how it has been translated by director Kevin Reynolds on screen. Previously I have reviewed Dumas’ classic and epic novel which you can find right HERE for your viewing pleasure (?) but here is the thing; while not impossible (especially if you have yet to read the book), it is difficult to divorce Edmond Dantès’ meticulous scheme of grand revenge on those who did him wrong laid out in the written tale to the truncated version we get here on screen.
Allow me to make myself clear; I still thoroughly enjoy the film thanks to all involved, not the least of which the performances, particularly from a vindictive and sniveling Guy Pearce as Dantès’ supposed BFF Fernand Mondego, JB Blanc as the flamboyant and charismatic cutthroat Luigi Vampa and Luis Guzmán as Edmond’s pirate enemy-turned close friend and protector Jacopo. On top of that, it’s a splendidly shot, genuinely exciting film which never truly slows down, with a keen eye for period detail to boot thanks to Reynolds who obviously loves to tell tales of folklore old given his sumptuous adaptations of Robin Hood, Tristian and Isolde and recently, Risen which I feel was a generally decent and interesting if flawed film.
It quite explicitly and intentionally misses the true and crucial point of the narrative.
I am not one to be overly critical when it comes to films based on classic books because unless you have the time, budget and security, it’s impossible to be utterly faithful to the words on page, but my issue here is that Dantès gets away from his actions scot-free when he shouldn’t have.
Let me put it this way, in reality, if you kill or destroy somebody and if you are of a reasonably sound mind, your actions will haunt you until the end of your days and one way or another, your sins will be lurking in the shadows. The magnitude of Edmond’s actions do not strike him as hard as they should have- in one scene of the film, the notion is briefly addressed, but a lot of that guilt that comes to pool within him does not affect him or the rest of the movie. He regains absolutely everything he lost with a clean slate, seemingly no muss, no fuss. The Count of Monte Cristo is above all a cautionary tale of retribution and how it infects the human psyche. It is frightening how easily the notion for an eye for an eye strikes us, and that is what Dumas was writing about.Because of this, the overall message of the film is made redundant and ends up rewarding Edmond more than it does punish him.
Is this a good movie? Absolutely, of course. It is tremendously fun and you will not regret the time you took out to watch it. Is it truly The Count of Monte Cristo? No.
PS: A young Henry Cavill plays a rather pivotal character in this movie and even back then, you could see this guy was gonna go far.