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The Man in the Iron Mask

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Man in the Iron Mask

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons
Director: Randall Wallace
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 132 Minutes
Release Date: March 1998
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich, Gabriel Byrne, Anne Parillaud, Peter Sarsgaard

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Walter Frith review follows video review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
3.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review
4.  Mark Fleming read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Walter Frith
½ star out of 4

Alexandre Dumas, the novelist who wrote 'The Three Musketeers' in the 19th century would be spinning in his grave if he knew that the only Frenchman in 1998's 'The Man in the Iron Mask' would have the weakest role. Also written in the 19th century by Dumas, 'The Man in the Iron Mask' was put into print after 'The Three Musketeers' and it, along with 'The Three Musketeers', actually contains four heroes: Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan. They are portrayed in this version of 'The Man in the Iron Mask' by John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, Jeremy Irons and Gabriel Byrne. Set in 1662, their King, Louis XIV of France (Leonardo DiCaprio), is a tyrant, watching his people starve while he lives in the seductive life of luxury, and is a true law unto himself.

There have been many versions of both 'The Three Musketeers' and 'The Man in the Iron Mask' produced for film and television and this one has to ranks in the much lower half of all that has been accomplished.

The musketeers are defenders of the French crown, a high powered army of loyal soldiers who possess a talent to wield a sword better than anyone to protect their sovereign ruler. D'Artagnan (Byrne), is the most loyal and says he will not betray his King, no matter how ruthless his methods are, somehow hoping his majesty will become a better man. Athos, Porthos and Aramis are past their prime and have retired to a more quiet life and decide to replace the King with his twin brother, the man in the iron mask who the King perceives as a threat to his power. They are motivated to overthrow the King when one of them is unknowingly deemed to be a suspicious traitor to the crown.

Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the cast are convincing in their roles, despite speaking English and containing no French accents whatsoever, except for Depardieu, but his role is the weakest and most clownish in the film. Malkovich is miscast as he was in the 1988 period piece 'Dangerous Liaisons' and why an Englishman, complete with an accent to boot (Irons) would be asked to play in this is a mystery. But their professional dedication to their roles make it work and DiCaprio is believable as both the King and his more decent twin.

The real problem with the film is that by concentrating solely on the dramatic set-up of the first 90 minutes or so, the finished product, at a little over two hours, comes off as relatively lifeless and rather stiffly written instead of sophisticated and high brow, as it should be. Written and directed by Randall Wallace who wrote director Mel Gibson's 1995 Oscar winner 'Braveheart', Wallace shows he has no talent as a director and his attention to detail is pretty superficial. The costumes in 'The Man in the Iron Mask' are noticeably "costume shop" in their appearance and the art direction and sets are perhaps the only saving grace, technically.

Teenage girls are sure to enjoy watching DiCaprio in his first role since 'Titanic' but one misfired scene has DiCaprio standing still in a room with his long hair, and some of it is draped over his face and with his attire, it just looks too feminine. I was imagining ear rings on him at that moment and it actually seemed funny. Something that I'm sure wasn't intended and it shouldn't have been allowed to happen. DiCaprio's hair in many scenes with his female companions actually looks longer than theirs does. Perhaps appropriate, but it just seems that someone should have reminded director Randall Wallace that the film is set in the 1660's and not the 1960's. Peace.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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