DVD Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo, by The Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas, has inspired more than a dozen film and TV re-tellings since 1908. The latest, from director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), stars Jim Caviezel (Frequency, The Thin Red Line) and Guy Pearce (Memento, The Time Machine) in a timeless tale of Napoleonic intrigue, dastardly betrayal and deadly revenge.

Edmond Dantes (Caviezel) is a simple sailor, the poor son of a clerk who finds joy in every breath he takes. His best friend, Fernand (Pearce), was born into a rich family but wants everything Edmond has: happiness, goodness and, more than anything else, Edmond’s fiancĂ©e, Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk). When Fernand seizes the opportunity to get Edmond out of the picture, Edmond is framed for a crime he did not commit and thrown into the darkest, loneliest cell of the coldest prison imaginable. After 13 years, Edmond escapes and sets into motion a plan of revenge that no simple sailor could ever accomplish. He becomes the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo, and nothing will stand in his way.

This is an excellent film that places more emphasis on drama and revenge than action. Caviezel’s transformation from sweet, simple Edmond into the Count of Monte Cristo is so majestic and convincing that he truly seems like a different man. His shift from simple man to weary prisoner to triumphant hero gives Caviezel many opportunities to show off different sides of the same character.

Guy Pearce is an incredible villain, lacing Fernand’s cruelty with simmering jealousy. Fernand may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s also fragile and miserable. Pearce conveys that wonderfully.

As Mercedes, Dagmara Dominczyk is more than just a breathtakingly beautiful face. She plays her character’s unbearable sadness to heartbreaking perfection. All three actors do a remarkable job of showing the differences in their characters before and after the 16 years Edmond was out of the picture.

The supporting cast is just as good. Richard Harris plays the fellow prisoner who secretly educates Edmond in prison.

Michael Wincott gives one of his most interesting (and subtle, in all the right ways) bad guy performances as the prison warden.

Supporting actor extraordinaire Luis Guzman (Traffic, Boogie Nights) is infinitely enjoyable as Jacopo, who is to the Count of Monte Cristo not only what Alfred was to Batman but also what Chewbacca was to Han Solo. Guzman makes him one of the film’s most enjoyable characters.

The DVD features an audio commentary by Reynolds and four deleted scenes with excellent commentary by Reynolds and editor Stephen Semel, who explain why the scenes were cut. Though the deleted scenes feature excellent acting and character development, they are a bit much for a movie that’s already 131 minutes long. A sound design demonstration and side-by-side multiple camera angles of the climactic swordfight are also included. Five excellent documentaries about everything from the history of the story to the making of the movie finish off the disc.

Beautifully filmed and strongly acted, The Count of Monte Cristo is as well worth your time as it is timeless.