The Count of Monte Cristo Review
The Count of Monte Cristo Review
This is my absolute favorite movie of all time, one that I’ve watched at least 300 times (likely even more than that). Objectively speaking, it’s not perfect, and yet it somehow manages to find its way onto the “top ten” lists of virtually all who watch it. First, a disclaimer: Despite the title, this isn’t a straight-up adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ book. If you expect the two to be identical or even similar, you’re bound to be disappointed, blinded by what you don’t see. That being said, this movie borrows from the book and builds off of it to create its own completely unique story that’s arguably better than the source material. That’s right, I said it. Suck it, Dumas loyalists.
The Count of Monte Cristo manages something that few movies have been able to successfully pull off—it takes the modern Hollywood fun-ness of movies and fuses it with that oldschool style of moviemaking that’s focused more on creating memorable characters and stories than providing an explosion/chase scene every five minutes. A large part of this success is due to the dialogue; rather than having dialogue be a passive thing, it’s full of subtleties, so animated and interesting that it itself is a form of action. There aren’t sword fights around every corner, but every time someone opens their mouth you can’t help but pay attention to everything they say.
The reason this works so well is because of the actors, really. Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, and Dagmara Dominczyk all have so much chemistry together that you can’t help but get sucked in to the story. All three of them transform quite a bit over the course of the movie, yet manage to make that change seem natural and realistic. Richard Harris, in one of his last roles before he passed away, brings something magical to his character. Luis Guzmán inserts humor into several scenes that contrasts Caviezel’s descent into calculated madness without ever coming across as forced. Everyone seems to bring something completely different to the table, and yet it all coalesces into a coherent whole rather than feeling like a clash of personalities.
This is a revenge movie, and that’s really what makes it so great; there’s nothing so sweet as seeing the deserving get their comeuppance. There’s sweetness and bitterness along the way, and again, everything comes together and just works. I don’t really want to talk about the plot, though, because there’s not much that can be said without spoiling important plot points. Instead, let’s talk about how pretty this movie is. It’s not an obvious thing, after all; this isn’t a movie that bombards you with scenery shots of vast landscapes every few minutes to reinforce the fact that things are currently happening in a pretty area, nor is it a movie that’s heavily post-processed in orange or green or any of the other colors that modern movies seem to be drowning in. It’s through the natural colors and clever angles that this movie manages to be so pretty, and it does so in its own unconventional way. There’s something about the way this movie was filmed that invokes memories of great old movies, and I can’t put my finger on just what that is. It could be that certain scenes have a peculiar grainy quality, or it could be something even more subtle that I’ve somehow managed to miss in my hundreds of viewings. Make no mistake about it, though—there’s something about this movie that’s undeniably pretty without being ostentatious.
Talking about movies always seems to come down to “would you recommend this to the average person?” Most of the time I have to qualify even my most heartfelt recommendations because every movie seems to have something to love and something to hate. This movie, however, I would recommend to everyone without any reservations, especially given that the average person probably isn’t very familiar with Dumas’ books. That familiarity and the attached expectations going in would be the only thing that could ruin one’s enjoyment of this movie. The Count of Monte Cristo may not be absolutely perfect, straying from the source quite a bit, but it’s about as close to a perfect movie as exists today, telling an incredible story without asking you to suffer through barely-tolerable sections of boredom to get to it like older movies tended to do. I’d recommend the Blu-Ray version especially; while it may not be the sharpest Blu-Ray ever, the movie in HD is even better because you can more easily catch subtle details like Mercedes trembling when she first meets Edmond again. Little stuff like that makes it all the better.