Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday at the Movies - Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Welcome to the first weekly Friday at the Movies post. These will happen every Friday (or opening weekend if I'm unable to make it to an opening day) and be impressions, reviews, or information about movies past, present, and future.

You should also notice that I added three new navigation buttons under the banner -- These correspond these and my other weekly posts:

Extra! Extra! is the re-branded "Suggested Reading", and I will be going back to add the Extra Extra tag retroactively.

Hunting Game(s) is my pun-ful title for my posts dealing with video games. Every Wednesday I will write something related to video games, though I will attach this title if I update with any random related info as well (such as the Sleeping Dogs post from Tuesday).

While I had hoped to see Total Recall this weekend, it didn't happen. Instead, I'm going to do a review of The Count of Monte Cristo, one of my favorite films. Also, the wife very much enjoys it as well, and we rarely agree on movies..
-----------------------HOLY SPOILERS BATMAN!----------------------------

The Counte of Monte Cristo is, simply, a movie about revenge.

Edmond Dantes, the protagonist, is betrayed by his best friend, Fernand Mondego, the treacherous first mate, Danglars, and the corrupt Magistrate, Villefort. These characters all have their own, well portrayed motivations, even if they rely a bit on coincidence. Edmond's father and fiance are told he is executed for treason, but in truth he was imprisoned in Château d'If, an escape-proof island prison for those that aren't meant to stand trial or ever see release.

Edmond spends 13 years there.

The early years a spent alone, and we see Edmond slowly lose his faith and, slowly, his mind. Fortunately, the arrival of one of the most interesting characters in the movie, the priest known as Abbe Farria, stops the downward spiral. The old man accidentally tunnels into Edmond's cell, apparently digging in the wrong direction. The remaining years in the prison are spent with Edmond helping the priest dig while the priest teaches Edmond everything he'll need to know when he's finally free -- the subjects range from reading and writing, the sciences and finance, as well as combat and military strategy. These scenes show a lot of growth with Edmond and the time lapse is done very well.

Freedom comes not from digging, however. The priest dies just after giving Edmond the map to the treasure of Monte Cristo, delivering one of the best lines of the movie: "I'm a priest, not a saint." Edmond is then able to escape using his body bag. It's a tense escape scene done very well.

Once free, Edmond washes up on shore and meets, among a band of pirates, another one of my favorite characters in the movie: Jacopo! He becomes Edmond's right hand man and most loyal friend.

Edmond finds the immeasurable wealth of Monte Cristo, and uses the money to buy a house in France and the title of Count of Monte Cristo.

The rest of the movie focuses on Edmond getting revenge on the three who wronged him and his ex-fiance, Mercedes, who married Fernand immediately after Edmond's "execution" and now lives unhappily with the lecherous Fernand and their son, Albert.

All of Edmond's past experiences wage war inside him as he acts out his plot. The dead priest acts as his conscience while the betrayals he suffered fuels his rage against the world. His plots all work flawlessly and come together nicely in the film -- the exception being Mercedes. She recognized him even though the years changed him and they eventually renewed a relationship.

The final confrontation is done well -- unlike most films today, the last showdown doesn't end in a rushed and overdone moment. Instead, Edmond is about to kill Fernand but pauses, allowing Albert to interrupt and almost get killed himself by Edmond. Fortunately, Mercedes comes in time and explains that Albert is actually Edmond's son, hence the rush to wed Fernand. A second fight takes place in a field of tall grass as Edmond and Fernand lock swords, and the killing stroke leaves Fernand with breath to ask one more question: "What happened to your mercy?" Edmond replies, "I'm a count, not a saint."

The epilogue is a few months later, outside the Château d'If. Mercedes, Albert, and Jacopo stand around as Edmond says some last words directed at his priest friend, and the movie ends on a happy note.
-----------------------------------SPOILERS FINISHED-------------

Throughout the film, I found the characters believable and interesting, the pacing superb, and the story all coming together at the end to be very rewarding. I re-watch this film once every few months and never get bored -- I attribute that to the pacing and the acting. I especially love Guy Pearce as Fernand, but I'm coming to find that I might have a man crush on Guy Pearce himself.

For me, this movie is a 9 (which is the highest rating I ever expect to give). If you haven't watched it, I strongly suggest you do.

I haven't read the book yet (I know, shame on me, I'll pick up a copy eventually), so I can't say how it compares. If it is worse, I am very excited to eventually read the novel. I did start to watch Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, which is an anime retelling. It is... very different, and at this time I can't recommend it. I'll say more when I've seen more.

Next Week: I have no clue! If I don't see something new, I'll update with a review for seasons 2 and 3 of Doctor Who.

Edit: Added spoiler tags after a suggestion from the wife. I'll try my best to make future Friday additions spoiler free or as spoiler free as possible.

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