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Title ::: The Count of Monte Cristo
Movie Review by Wayne Cronin
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominczyk, Richard Harris & James Frain
Directed by: Kevin Reynolds

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It is always a hit or miss affair when a classic novel or story is made into an epic film. The Count of Monte Cristo is Alexandre Dumas' classic story of an innocent man who is wrongly but purposely imprisoned and his plan of revenge against those who wronged him.

This is a typical swash-buckling account of betrayal, deception, love, revenge and justice. The tale begins with the introduction of the two central characters, young sailor Edmond Dantes (Jim Caviezel) and his best friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce). They make for an odd pairing as they are from completely different social backgrounds and have diverse personalities.

Dantes is an honest to God hard working man whose plan is to marry his girlfriend Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk). Mondego, on the other hand, lives a privileged life and being the son of a count he wants for nothing. As is always the case, those who want for nothing want what they cannot have and Edmond is blissfully unaware that Fernand covets his beautiful girlfriend.

From the outset it is obvious that rich kid Fernand has a devious streak and cannot be trusted. Of course poor innocent (or is it deluded?) Edmond does not see this, which makes him all the more endearing. Taking full advantage of his friend's gullible nature, Fernand hatches a plan of deception, with a view to having the girl for himself. With the help of his friend Villefont (James Frain), a corrupt magistrate, Fernand succeeds in having his best friend incarcerated for a crime he didn't quite commit.

Thrown into Chateau D'If (the interior of which is Ardmore Studios here in Ireland), a murky prison built on an island, poor Edmond is left to die and is soon forgotten by the world. For a long time he bears his imprisonment well, hoping that he will be rescued and that justice will be done, his mantra being 'God will give me justice'.

The years pass by and it dawns on Edmond that maybe God is busy and unaware of his plight. Becoming bitter and twisted, it seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, until Abbe Faria (Richard Harris) literally tunnels his way into Edmonds life.

The Abbe has been tunnelling to escape Chateau D'If for years, but miscalculated and took a wrong turn, instead ending up in Edmond's dank cell. The pair continue to tunnel their way back into the world they once knew, banging and scraping beneath the floors of Chateau D'If, making no effort to hush their voices (it's a wonder the guards never copped).

Tragedy strikes though, and old man Abbe dies. This would normally be seen as a massive setback, but it is actually a blessing in disguise for Edmond. Not only has the Abbe told Edmond where he has hidden vast treasures but Edmond also makes good his escape. This may sound very fast paced, but it all works quite well as it spans a period of thirteen years.

Locked up for so long the dashing Edmond is washed up on a beach, looking tanned, albeit quite scraggy. Armed with a massive fortune (not quite sure how much, but it never runs out), Edmond buys his way into the lifestyle enjoyed by his former friend Fernand, who is now Count Mondego. His arrival into high society is launched by an extravagant party, at which he arrives in a hot air balloon set against a backdrop of fireworks. Once ensconced in the world of wealth and privilege he begins his plan of revenge on those who have wronged him and in the end, God does give him his justice.

The Count of Monte Cristo (for that is what Edmond calls himself), is a contemporary take on a classic story. It is true to the novel and succeeds in capturing the imagination, as did the novel. It has a first rate cast (keep a future eye on young Henry Cavill who plays Mondego's son, Albert) who demonstrate the variety of emotions experienced by each character.

It's not all hum-drum seriousness though, as there are some funny moments and witty one liners scattered about. If swash-buckling period dramas aren't your thing, The Count of Monte Cristo may well surprise you.

Verdict: (4 stars out of 5) Wayne Cronin.

In cinemas nationwide from March 29th.
Cert: PG Running Time: 131 mins. - © Copyright 2000 - 2012.
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