The Count of Monte Cristo (DVD, 1996)

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God Will Give Me Justice: The Count of Monte Cristo

Dec 27, 2005 (Updated Dec 27, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Story, Cinematography, sets, locations, Jim Caviezel, supporting cast, moral

Cons:Over-the-top villains in an otherwise superbly filmed story

The Bottom Line: The Count of Monte Cristo is a respectful take on the classic story of revenge and redemption. Well worth watching.


The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

“God is never in France this time of year.” Jailer

The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic tale of revenge, adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ lengthy novel of the same name.

Set in 1815, it tells the tale of simple sailor Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel), who mistakenly agrees to deliver a letter from Napoleon, exiled on the Isle of Elba. Ostensibly for this transgression, but actually through betrayal by three villains, each with a different reason, Dantes spends 13 years rotting in the infamous Chateau D’If, a dungeon on an island off the coast of Marseilles.

After several years in solitary confinement, Dantes is astounded to see a man erupt through the flagstones of his cell’s floor. This is the Abbe Faria (Richard Harris). Dantes agrees to help the Abbe tunnel out; in return the priest will educate him. Dantes can neither read nor write.

After several more years of tunneling, the Abbe gets mortally injured in a cave-in. Before he dies he tells Dantes of the great Spada treasure, hidden on the Island of Monte Cristo. Substituting himself for the Abbe in his burial shroud, Dantes is thrown off a high cliff into the sea. He is captured by pirates, finds the treasure, becomes a count, and gets his revenge all in high style.

The screenplay is very good, with the book’s complicated story trimmed down to keep within a reasonable running time. The pacing is excellent with never a dull moment and plenty of comic relief to punctuate the often dire storyline. The production design, locations, sets, costuming, and props are all first class. The cinematography, by Andrew Dunn and Tim Wooster, is breathtaking.

Jim Caviezel plays Dantes, the sailor who became a count, and Guy Pierce plays the chief villain, Fernand Mondego. I felt the leads were somewhat miscast but as the film progressed, Caviezel, especially grew into the part. His Count of Monte Cristo was very impressive after a weak start as the na´ve sailor. Guy Pierce was an over-the-top villain with no redeeming qualities. I felt his performance was cartoonish, given the overall quality of the production, which is top notch.

The supporting cast had mostly excellent casting, including Michael Wincott as the warden of Chateau D’If. He stole every scene he was in. Richard Harris and Dominique Domincyzk were also superb as the Abbe Faria and Mercedes - the love interest, respectively. Luis Guzman, while a fine actor, was also cartoonish as the Count’s batman, Jacopo. If all of the casting were appropriate I would rate this film as one of the very best. I lay the lack of control over the performances at director Kevin Reynolds’ feet; other than that, he did a tremendous job, however.

The Touchstone DVD clocks in at 131 minutes and is presented in color, in 1.85:1 Panavision format. It boasts a full length director’s commentary by Kevin Reynolds, several decent featurettes, and deleted scenes among the extras.

The Count of Monte Cristo is a film the whole family can see, and that’s perhaps why the villain is played so over the top. The story demonstrates a fine moral and is something that will stick with children through their years. I remember reading the book and seeing the 1934 version with Robert Donat long ago and it’s still one of my favorite tales.

Although the film is out of print, I include my review of the 1934 version of The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) in hopes that it may someday again be made available. Both versions are very much worth seeing.

Watch a good film tonight!


Recommend this product? Yes


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