Monday, January 4, 2016


It's curious that a movie set in France during the reign of King Louis XIV should star only one French actor. Of the five main characters in THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1998), only Gerard Depardieu as Porthos, is French. The rest of the cast? Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role is an American, Gabriel Byrne as D'Artagnan is Irish, Jeremy Irons as Aramis is British and John Malkovich as Athos, is also American.

Still, it's a stellar cast in a handsome production of the Alexandre Dumas novel. Written and directed by Randall Wallace, the film finds the legendary Three Musketeers (actually, four) in retirement, their glory days behind them. Only D'Artagnan remains in service to the boy king (DiCaprio). But a mysterious man in an iron mask threatens to topple the crown and reveal long hidden secrets.

My main quibble with the film is that it takes more than half of the running time of 132 minutes to finally buckle some swash (or swash some buckle). No real sword fight occurs on screen for one helluva long time. Oh sure, there's political intrigue, broad comedy, romance and some dashes of derring do here and there but for a film starring one of the most famous sword fighting quartets in literature, I was expecting some swords to be drawn and crossed a lot earlier in the film.

While not as good as Richard Lester's THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973) and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974) for sheer exuberance and bravado, THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK is a solid costume drama with first rate production values, beautiful cinematography by Peter Suschitzky and a rousing score by Nick Glennie-Smith. Worth seeing.

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