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The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Different versions of Alexander Dumas' 1844 classic have been filmed over the years, but this one stands out for its sheer pizaaz.

James Caviezel (Frequency and Angel Eyes) stars as Edmond Dantes and the versatile Guy Pearce (Memento) as his friend-turned-nemesis, Fernand Mondego.

Dantes is unexpectedly promoted to Captain for the shipping company he works for and is engaged to marry the beautiful Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk).  As a commoner, he enjoys a blessed life, so much so, that it inflicts the wrath of well-born Mondego, who becomes very jealous of Dantes' success.

Mondego is so consumed by the green-eyed monster, he betrays Dantes by giving false information, and Dantes is consequently thrown into prison on trumped up treason charges.  Dantes is condemned to spend the rest of his life at Chateau d'If, a stone structure situated on the edge of a remote island cliff.

He's put into a solitary cell where he counts the stones in his room over and over again.  He's there so long that the days, weeks and months run into each other, with the yearly beatings he gets on the anniversary of his confinement, the only way he can keep track of the passing years.

When Dantes has just about given up hope, a most surprising event takes place.  A big stone tile loosens from the floor of his cell and out pops a wiry, dirty old man with a long white beard and tattered clothes.  Faria (Richard Harris) is a hopeful, smart, industrious man who has been tirelessly digging an escape tunnel, only to make a small miscalculation which ends him up in Dantes' cell instead of outside the prison.

The two prisoners take on the tunnel project together, with Faria in turn teaching Dantes about philosophy, poetry and hand-to-hand combat, and with nothing but time on his hands, Dantes soon possesses the knowledge and physical training necessary to pass himself off as a gentleman.

By the time Dantes gets out of prison, he's consumed with his need for revenge for those responsible for his incarceration.  He plans to use his new skills, plus an enormous treasure he acquires from a treasure map given to him by Faria, to carry out his scheme.

He transforms himself into the Count of Monte Cristo, a fictitious, very wealthy, aristocrat, which allows him to move in the social circles of his enemies and catch them in his elaborate trap.

The pace of the film changes as frequently as the settings.  The beginning moves slowly as it sets up the relationship between the two friends and shows a meeting with Napoleon Bonaparte on the Isle of Elba.  The pace picks up as Faria takes Dantes under his wing and the training begins, and it ends with a bang as a truly exciting sword fight takes place in deep grass.

Great acting, wonderful scenery, pirates, betrayal, humor (provided by a pirate played by Luis Guzman), terrific action and a moving love story, what more could we ask for?  The Count of Monte Cristo is an entertaining swashbuckling adventure well worth seeing.

The Count of Monte Cristo

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