Movie Review - "The Count of Monte Cristo"

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Reviewed by Justin Colburn & Keayn Dunya

'"The Count of Monte Cristo" is Alexandre Dumas classic story of an innocent man wrongly but deliberately imprisoned and his strategy for revenge against those who betrayed him. Edmond Dantes (JIM CAVIEZEL, Frequency) is a guileless and honest young sailor whose peaceful life and plans to marry the beautiful Mercedes (DAGMARA DOMINCZYK) are abruptly shattered when his best friend Fernand Mondego (GUY PEARCE, Ravenous), who wants Mercedes for himself, deceives him. Set up to be unlawfully sentenced to the infamous island prison of Chateau DIF, Edmond is trapped in a nightmare that lasts for thirteen years. Haunted by the baffling course his life has taken, over time everything he ever believed about right and wrong is abandoned and replaced by all-consuming thoughts of vengeance against those who betrayed him. With the help of an equally innocent fellow inmate (RICHARD HARRIS), Dantes plots and succeeds in his mission to escape from prison, whereupon he transforms himself into the mysterious and wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. With cunning ruthlessness, he insinuates himself into the French nobility and systematically destroys the men who manipulated and enslaved him.'

At least that is the intent of the movie. In all cases it falls flat. We don't normally have any sort of expectations when we sit down to watch a movie. It's easier to enjoy movies more that way, but when we saw a trailer for the Count of Monte Cristo we became excited. The preview made the movie look like it might be a high seas swashbuckling adventure, the like of which we haven't seen since Errol Flynn's time. It's rare to see movies like that now, so such excitement is justified. Unfortunately, this theory proved to hold true, when you expect things of the movie before you see it you don't enjoy it as much.

Edmond Dantes was a very remarkable young sailor who's life was going very well. So well in fact that he was actually living a better life than his noble best friend, Fernand. Edmond Dantes is a like able enough fellow. But his naove attitude towards the people around gets to be more than a little annoying. Until his imprisonment, Edmond is obviously used by those he seeks to trust. Still all he wants from life is a captain's commission and to marry his longtime love Mercedes. Fernand is the catalyst of his fall. We see early that Fernand is jealous of Edmond and for Fernand, the son of a count, this is unconscionable that he betrays Edmond. Through a series of underhanded deals by Villefort, Edmond is shuffled off to the Chateau DIF. Villefort is more of a two-bit villain, a man who uses Edmond plight and Fernands' ruthlessness to further his own ends. The betrayal of friendship, the loss of love, and life under the eye of an uncaring god break Edmond down as life in the Chateau is harsh and cruel (although in part this cruelty seems disjointed and tacked on). In a clichéd moment his destiny comes to find him. He is befriend by a fellow inmate, Abbe Faria, who has tunneled into his cell by mistake. This man is a priest and teaches Edmond to read, write, fight, philosophy, languages, economics, and many more skills in the years they spend together. While in prison Dantes plots his revenge and gains his way to freedom through a strange kind of sacrifice. He is adopted by pirates and wins the life of his trusty sidekick, Jacopo (Luis Guzman, Out of Sight). They work their way into French high society to extract revenge on men who put Dantes in prison. Now all that is left is to destroy the life of those that took his away.

This movie is another great example of trying to cram too much story into too short a time, even though the movie was over two hours long. The movie had interesting characters, great performances, beautiful locations, but in the end it just fell short. The movie held a good pace until the end when everything suddenly felt rushed and the final battle was very anti-climatic. Imdb.com shows 16 movies with the title "the Count of Monte Cristo," We suggest you try to find one of the other 15. In fact, the black and white version is truer to Dumas' original intent. In the end if you don't like it you're only out a couple of dollars as opposed to $7.50, but if you think you have to see this one wait until it comes available for rent.

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