The Count of Monte Cristo
directed by Kevin Reynolds
(Touchstone, 2002)

Edmond Dantes has a very bad day turn amazingly good -- but the jealousy of a close friend soon sends his life into ruins. But even 13 years in a grim, unforgiving prison can't crush a man with a strong will and the good fortune to have a clever, erudite and secretly wealthy prisoner tunnel into his cell.

The 2002 remake of The Count of Monte Cristo combines good acting, a great plot and wonderful scenery to great effect. James Caviezel is Dantes, the lucky sailor whose life is stripped away when his "good" friend, the future Count Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce), has him imprisoned on questionable charges of treason after a chance encounter with the exiled former emperor Napoleon (Alex Norton) on Elba.

His long prison stay might have been tedious without the sadistic attentions of warden Armand Dorleac (perpetual bad guy Michael Wincott) and a lucky encounter with fellow prisoner Abbe Faria (Richard Harris in a delightful role). Faria spends several years sharing escape plans and education with Dantes and, as a last gasp, shares knowledge of a hidden treasure, too. So when Dantes does finally get clear of the dreadful island prison, he uses his new wealth to orchestrate his advancement in French society and his revenge on the sneering Mondego, as well as the corrupt magistrate J.F. Villefort (James Frain).

He also finds his long lost love, Mercedes Iguanada (a radiant Dagmara Dominczyk), who has married the wrong man, and incurs a to-the-death loyalty from former smuggler Jacopo (a whimsical turn by Luis Guzman).

The Count of Monte Cristo, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, is a tight, well-choreographed movie adventure in the classic style. The action is exciting in spurts without overwhelming the story, and the character development is credibly written. This is fresh, satisfying cinema.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 28 February 2004

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