Monday, May 28, 2012

You know what's a good movie? (Part 9) The Count of Monte Cristo

Welcome back to the "You know what's a good movie?" column. It's when I talk about movies that are connected in some way.  Maybe they share a director, maybe they share a starring actor or actress, or maybe there is a common theme?  Let's review:

Part 5: The Departed

Connection: Matt Damon

Part 6: Good Will Hunting

Connection: Robin Williams

Part 7: Mrs. Doubtfire

Connection: Chris Columbus

Part 8: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Connection: Richard Harris

Part 9: The Count of Monte Cristo


Richard Harris was an amazing actor who had an amazing resume before his passing in 2002.  He passed away after only 2 of the 8 Harry Potter films were completed.  But he definitely left his stamp on the franchise.  Another of Harris' terrific performances was in The Count of Monte Cristo; a retelling of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel.  The story of a man wrongfully imprisoned, and his tale of revenge.  The film was directed by Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), and starred Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ), Guy Pearce (Memento) and Dagmara Dominczyk (Kinsey).

Caviezel begins his character arc as a young, naive man who believes in the good of others.  Caviezel acts more with eyes than anything else in this first act.  Pearce's character can't bare the fact that a poor man like Caviezel can be so content with his life.  While he has all the riches in the world, Pearce is an unhappy man.  He betrays Caviezel in a scheme to steal his fiance, played by Dominczyk.  Caviezel is wrongfully thrown in jail with the help of Pearce's rich friends.  Dominczyk is lead to believe he is dead.

The second act is where Caviezel's character takes his turn, while in prison.  It maybe for the best, maybe for the worst.  This is where he meets the Richard Harris character, "The Priest".  The priest enriches him with a wealth of knowledge.  Math, science, economics, literature, and most importantly, fencing.  This is all in exchange for Caviezel's help digging the two characters out of the prison.  After an accident occurs, and while on his death bed, the priest reveals a map to hidden treasure.  Caviezel escapes the prison and begins his journey to revenge against those who have done him wrong.

It is the third act that is the most fascinating to me.  Caviezel makes an alliance with the Luis Guzman character, as he makes his way back to his hometown.  After the two find the treasure, they return to town and create an entirely new persona for Caviezel, The Count of Monte Cristo.  But something takes the Count by surprise; the Dominczyk character has married the Pearce character, and they have a son together.  Wow.

With a clever setup, Caviezel makes it appear as though he saves Pearce's son from being kidnapped.  This is all to get close to the Pearce character.  Pearce's son is played by none other than Henry Cavill, our future Superman!

Spoiler Alert
Towards the end of the film, it is revealed that the Cavill character is actually Caviezel's son, not Pearce's.  WHOA!  The Dominczyk character only married Pearce because she was pregnant and needed to cover it up!  It is important to note that the writer of the script, Jay Wolpert, deviated from the Dumas novel in this aspect.  In the book, the son really does belong to the Pearce character.
End Spoiler

At this point, our main character is full of anger and hate, and he is ready for revenge.  One by one, those who were responsible for his imprisonment begin to fall.  But it is done in such a grand way, that it is perhaps worse than death.  All of this leads to an incredible showdown between the former best friends.

The action comes to a head with a fencing duel that is filmed beautifully.  With swooping camera shots through the fields that surround the actual actors dueling, it's a sight to see.  I wont spoil the end, but the Caviezel character's arc definitely has a conclusion that will satisfy the viewers.

The action is great in the film, but it is really the story telling that keeps us on the edge of our seats.  What the Count will do next, to get back at people, provides the bulk of the thrills.  The scenery, the acting, the directing are all top notch.  I loved how easy it was to follow the complex web of revenge that the character goes through.  Not every aspect is revealed to the audience, just enough for us to try and figure it out ourselves.  It is a smart film that satisfies with repeat viewings.  If you haven't seen this film yet, go out and get yourself a copy.  You WONT be disappointed.

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