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MAN IN THE IRON MASK, THE

SYNOPSIS:
In 1660, the young Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio) reigns arrogantly over France. Of the legendary Muskateers, only one has remained in the Royal service, D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), while Athos (John Malkovich) lives a simple life as a widower with a son, Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard) who is about to get engaged to the beautiful Christine (Judith Godreche). But the King fancies Christine for himself and arranges for Raoul to be sent to the front, to make way for himself. Meanwhile, Paris is starving, and all Louis XIV does is send out rotting food that his army has left. Riotous Frenchmen threaten his tranquility and his court is restless with a King so ignoble. Aramis (Jeremy Irons), who has turned to the priesthood, Porthos (Gerard Depardieu), who has turned to licentiousness and Athos, who has turned to solitude, the legendary Muskateers, re-unite to try and repair the Crown; one for all and all for one. The basis of the plan is the extraordinary secret of the man in the iron mask. Only D’Artignan refuses take part, misguidedly and desperately clinging to the notion of loyalty to the King. This makes the Muskateers’ mission even more dangerous – but danger has never deterred these men of passion and valour. And when the need arises – which is often throughout this adventure - they are as courageous as ever, and as resourceful.

"Propelled by a star-powered cast, The Man in the Iron Mask is engaging, impressively staged with plenty of pizzazz and entertainment value. Randall Wallace’s handling of Alexandre Dumas’ tale has enjoyable characterisations and excellent production values, with sumptuous surroundings and locations. Wallace takes us to an era in which honour takes pride of place, and valour, loyalty and courage are of ultimate importance. Romance, pomp, ceremony and splendour make an authentic backdrop integral to the story. The price we pay for this high-class cast, is that there’s not too much validity or consistency in the variety of accents of the leading players. But this is Hollywood, and relatively easy to forgive, because the performances are terrific. Leonardo DiCaprio affirms his strong screen presence with the dual roles of the royal twins, while each of the other seasoned leads shines in his own way. Irons with his piercing gaze, Malkovich’s heated passion, Byrne’s subtlety and Dépardieu’s clowning around. There are some very funny moments. In fact, it looked like these boys were having a whale of a time. In the wig department, prize for the scruffiest goes to Dépardieu, closely followed by Malkovich. One of the film’s great strengths is the fluid musical score, which matches the ceremony and splendour, yet retains emotional sensitivity. A little long at just over two hours, The Man in the Iron Mask is an enjoyable romp, whose main calling card is a host of acting talent."
Louise Keller

"Very kind of you, Louise, because the acting talent is also the weakness you mention, making the make the film more distant than it should be. It should be as moving as a road train on the Nullarbor, and at least as emotionally involving as Braveheart, Randall Wallace’s Scottish period epic. The disparity of the cast’s ethnicity interferes with the process of getting attached to this motley crew, and the clash of idioms inherent in a deeply French story, with actors such as DiCaprio and Malkovich in particular, prevents us from engaging with them on an emotional level – leaving intellect to do the work of the heart. It’s not meant for it. While DiCaprio’s performance as the ill-fated twins is as good as you’d want, his contemporariness gets in the way. Likewise with Malkovich, who is written as a warm and loving father with a grieving heart; in the context of France under Louis XIV, Malkovich is a modern man with modern – American – mannerisms. Gabriel Byrne manages to infiltrate D’Artagnan, just, but even Jermey Irons’ well observed, appealing Aramis, comes a cropper in this multicultural cast, for lack of cohesion alone. These fatal flaws flatten an otherwise fiery fantasy, romantic and tragic all at once, with plenty of spectacle for the eyes from cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, and a really excellent score by Nick Glennie-Smith."
Andrew L. Urban

"Remember the one about the Irishman, the American, the Englishman and the Frenchman? Well voilà, they are now the four musketeers instead of the butt of many a joke. Or are they? Welcome to another cinematic incarnation of The Man in the Iron Mask, with plenty of naked swords, half naked wenches and the odd bit of naked humour. This is more Hollywood than Alexandre Dumas, and it shows, with its simplistic tale of power and greed versus innocence and honour. It’s kind of 17th century Star Wars, minus the black garb. Not that this Man is a total write-off by any means, it's just incredibly shallow. Production values are high, with its lavish costumes and intricate design making it a sumptuous affair. And if one forgets how much it departs from the book, as entertainment goes it's fun to watch, but what makes it so is not the stony performance of a tired Leonardo DiCaprio, but the masters of screen stardom who surrounds him. Leo might get the bucks and the adoring women, but seeing the likes of Jeremy Irons, Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich and Gabriel Byrne strut their stuff, reminds us of the power of movie acting. Leo, my friends, just hasn't got it. Not yet anyway. While there seems to be an assorted number of pronunciations of D'Artagnon (can't studios afford dialect coaches?), this film comes alive as our heroes combine forces in spectacular style. All for one and one for all? Not quite, but almost."
Paul Fischer



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1
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See Rick Adams' FEATURE on the making of The Man in the Iron Mask

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THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (M)
(US)

 

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gérard Dépardieu, Gabriel Byrne, Anne Parillaud, Judith Godreche, Edward Atterton, Peter Sarsgaard

DIRECTOR: Randall Wallace

PRODUCER: Paul Hitchcock, Rene Dupont

SCRIPT: Randall Wallace (based on novel by Alexandre Dumas)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky

EDITOR: William Hoy

MUSIC: Nick Glennie-Smith

PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Anthony Pratt

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

VIDEO RELEASE: Apr 8, 1999
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR:Warner







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