The Man in the Iron Mask

03  APR
For the honor of a king. And the destiny of a country. All for one.

Directed by  Randall Wallace
Written by  Alexandre Dumas père, Randall Wallace
Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio (King Louis/Philippe)
Jeremy Irons (Aramis)
John Malkovich (Athos)
Gérard Depardieu (Porthos)
Gabriel Byrne (D'Artagnan)
Anne Parillaud (Queen Anne)
Judith Godrèche (Christine)
Runtime: 130 minutes

The story is not new, many books and movies already narrated it, although I suppose that the details always changed. The common basis is that the twin brother of King Louis XIV of France has been kept imprisoned with a mask tied to his head in order to avoid anybody from knowing about his existence. The king is not really able to rule the country with conscience, the people are suffering an increasing poverty while the royal court is as rich as ever, so the Musketeers decide to free the king's twin and swap them in order to have a wiser sovereign.

I won't criticise the story itself that is passable regardless of a few dubious points but I do criticise the way it has been put into play! It looks like the writer and director only cared to put some nice costumes all over the place but completely forgot about the development of the characters. It is sensible to give more importance to a single aspect of the personality of each character but this so exaggerated here that the Musketeers looks like monodimensional people.

In fact, in every scene where they are present, each Musketeers shows only one kind of attitude and speech: Porthos is gross, funny and only speaks about sex and about his senility; D'Artagnan always hints about his 'special' loyalty to the king and about the father and son relationship that he will never be able to experience; Athos only speaks about his love for his only child and the great torment caused by his death; Aramis is the rightful priest whose only aim is to replace the king with his twin brother which he separated right after their birth. DiCaprio's performance may look more solid only because he has the luck to play two characters: one is the evil king who spends his days together with young women and always shows his indifferent attitude towards everybody, the other is the modest and good twin brother who always seems to accept his situation 'silently'.

This all means that every time Porthos is on the scene there will be some inappropriate funny moments, D'Artagnan's 'secret' is embarrassingly easy to guess, Aramis and especially Athos are just a bit annoying with their flat personality. So, while the story was obviously predictable, even the actions and speeches of every character are quite foreseeable which detracts from the dramatic weight of various scenes.

Fortunately, watching the movie is not a boring experience, somehow the story flows quite well and there are no 'dead' moments. There aren't many real action scenes either and the sword fights are very sparse but I didn't feel the need for them. The setting, the photography, the costumes and the music are all very good, these are probably the strongest qualities of the movie which helps it to remain mildly enjoyable regardless of all the criticisms above.

Rating: 6.5  **

Links:  Official Site




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 25 Jun 1999