Thursday, June 13, 2024

“THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO”

THE STORY – Betrayed by his friends and convicted by a corrupt magistrate, the sailor Edmond Dantès is condemned to life imprisonment; upon his escape, he obtains a sizeable fortune and returns to France disguised as the “Count of Monte Cristo,” an identity through which he plans to exact vengeance on those who ruined him.

THE CAST – Pierre Niney, Bastien Bouillon, Anaïs Demoustier, Anamaria Vartolomei & Laurent Lafitte

THE TEAM – Matthieu Delaporte & Alexandre de La Patellière (Directors/Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 178 Minutes


There is a reason why classic stories never go out of fashion. Sure, on the one hand, it’s easy to say that it’s merely because many of these tales are based on literature now in the public domain, making those pesky copyright fees nonexistent for any studio looking to make a profit. However, there is a comfort in these old adventures, ones that have often shaped our current landscape and are enjoyable to dive back into and relive. Oftentimes, an opportunity may present itself to reinvent an overly familiar concept with a fresh perspective and a new take to infuse a sense of vibrancy. Ultimately, the latest version of “The Count of Monte Cristo” does not truly find any novelty in this particular execution but still manages to be an engaging work all the same.

This new rendition of the Alexandre Dumas novel once again finds itself centering on the life of Edmond Dante (Pierre Niney). The first sight of him is during a heroic moment when he rescues a drowning woman from a shipwreck. She won’t reveal much to him, but he is aware of a secret letter she is carrying. Once the crew returns to Marseille, Dante is given a promotion by the fleet’s owner, while Captain Danglers (Patrick Mille) is dismissed, causing jealousy and resentment to fester. Dantes hopes to use the situation to raise his social stock, thereby marrying his sweetheart Mercedes (Anais Demoustier). However, this still causes consternation with her cousin Fernand de Morcef (Bastien Bouillon). When Dangler learns the letter is that of a communication with Napoleon, he puts forward it as evidence of Dante as a traitor. No one is there to defend him, so Dante is imprisoned for years and left to be forgotten.

While rotting away and left forgotten to time, it is here where Dante meets fellow prisoner Abbé Faria (Pierefrancesco Favino), who has already begun his own escape plan by digging through the walls and reaching the sea that lies outside the prison. The two collaborate on a project that takes more than a decade to complete. Faria bestows all his knowledge of world politics, languages, and, most importantly, the location of a secret treasure worth a fortune. When Faria dies after a cave-in, Dante takes his chance and successfully flees his confines. Once he has found these hidden riches, he returns to Marseilles under the alias of a mysterious Count, intending to ingratiate himself within the high society responsible for his ruin and exile. So begins the complicated scheme in which he will enact his revenge, slowly taking time to lay down the track that will foil his enemies but will also take an emotional toll on him as well.

Few adaptations of this classic story have captured this narrative’s enormous scope, spanning a great number of years that see its characters go through dramatic changes. Directors Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patellière showcase lush production values in their filmmaking, displaying an authentic period setting with incredible imagery. There is a traditionalist flavor to their direction that has an appreciation of old-school epics, but they still bring a vibrancy to the screen, which keeps the energy mostly sustained. “Mostly” is an important distinction because, for a wide-ranging narrative, it inevitably suffers from bouts of tedium as it meanders through the many facets of this convoluted plan. There is a balance achieved when the visual spectacle provides captivating scenery, but it is a battle that sometimes succumbs to the lagging momentum.

Despite the screenplay’s best efforts, it can easily become lost in the sea of characters it presents and the several layers revealed in Dante’s plot. Keeping track of all these individuals with their competing motivations can be difficult to maintain, which can lessen some of the emotional impact meant to be felt with much of the intended catharsis. One must also find tolerance in some of the more outlandish elements that force the audience to buy into every outrageous aspect required for this arrangement to be pulled off. The suspension of disbelief can only be carried so far when Dante can acquire makeup skills that more resemble the work of Rick Baker rather than what was realistic in 19th century France. Still, these more wanton displays of fancy can be accepted when the spirited tone is preserved, which finds itself largely fulfilling.

Even with this very eclectic and sizable ensemble, the whole piece is carried on the back of Niney’s performance. It’s a tall order he must complete, taking on an arc that spans what feels like an entire lifetime and causes such a dramatic change in character. The beginning is where he’s least effective, but through no fault of his own as the naïve and idealistic Dante just can’t hold a candle to the more conniving architect who is born out of a poisonous rage. He delivers a compelling turn full of a complex mixture of hateful scorn but sorrowful mourning for the idyllic life that was taken and can never be returned. It’s commendable work that rises above the rest of the cast, full of serviceable turns, but isn’t given any level of nuance that compares to what Niney can exhibit. The closest would be Demoustier, who often will match the bitter melancholy in an absorbing manner, but one still finds the central figure to be the main attraction.

In many ways, “The Count of Monte Cristo” feels like a take that brings both new life and stifling tradition into this arena. The stunning imagery is a wonder to behold, impressive at conveying a grand scale that is arresting in its pageantry. Still, the storytelling can feel rigid in how many details it seems beholden to the source material, which doesn’t generate a natural rhythm to flow within this roaming narrative and an unmanageable number of characters to establish a believable connection with. The crafts elevate the weakness of the screenplay, and Pierre Niney’s towering performance is an engrossing fixture that keeps one invested. It’s safe to say that this is a unique version of this familiar tale whose innovation may not come from the storytelling but instead from its ambitious execution.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The production values are very impressive, showcasing lush filmmaking that displays an impactful grand scale. The tone is mostly engaging, and Pierre Niney's performance is wholly captivating.

THE BAD - The scope of the narrative often finds itself meandering, which can become tedious. The many characters ultimately struggle to leave an impression outside the main protagonist.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best International Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>The production values are very impressive, showcasing lush filmmaking that displays an impactful grand scale. The tone is mostly engaging, and Pierre Niney's performance is wholly captivating.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The scope of the narrative often finds itself meandering, which can become tedious. The many characters ultimately struggle to leave an impression outside the main protagonist.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-international-feature/">Best International Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO"