The Man in the Iron Mask - * * 1/2*

The Man in the Iron Mask

Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace makes his directoral debut with this adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ further adventures of the Three Musketeers. While not as good as his earlier film, The Man in the Iron Mask is entertaining.

The three musketeers have, at this time, retired and gone their separate ways. Aramis (Jeremy Irons) has returned to the priesthood, Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) has devoted himself to earthly pleasures, and Athos (John Malkovich) has contented himself with raising his son, Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard). Their protégé, D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), remains in the service of the King, Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio).

King Louis is a young king, and not a very good one. His people are starving, his armies are fighting unjust wars, and he is more concerned about chasing the skirts of Raoul’s fiancee, Christine (Judith Godreche). However, King Louis has a secret: one whose very identity is so threatening that he has been imprisoned deep within the Bastille and forced to wear a mask of iron.

What’s the one thing you expect out of any movie starring the Three Musketeers? Swordplay! But, for some reason, the movie’s halfway over before any true swashbuckling gets done. When it finally arrives, it is mostly chaotic, and makes you yearn for the better days of Fairbanks or Flynn.

But, luckily there’s more to the story than simple swordplay. The drama in the film is handled well, even though the themes are a bit broad. The weakest part of Wallace’s script is the dialogue, which starts out very poorly, but, thankfully, does get better as the film progresses.

And the film is helped by a fine cast. DiCaprio is in fine form here, given more to do than he was in Titanic. The musketeers are also good, with only Gerard Depardieu (strangely, the only true Frenchman among the bunch) seeming out of place. His Porthos is used primarily for comic relief, which is mostly neither comical nor a relief.

There are a few moments when the film stutters, particularly in its first hour, but as its dense plot is given a chance to unfold, the lure of the story manages to capture its audience. The Man in the Iron Mask is far from being the great epic it strives to be, but it is ultimately enjoyable, and delivers entertainment for the dollar.

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