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Festivale online magazine, March, 1998
The Man in the Iron Mask movie review
Movie Poster, Man in the Iron Mask (Festivale movie review) The Man in the Iron Mask

Okay, at the risk of alienating the great people at United International Pictures who gave me chardonnay at the movie preview and have always been kind and gracious, I have to get this off my liver.

Why the hell is Leonardo DiCaprio a big star?

Tell me that itís one of lifeís great mysteries and I might accept it. Tell me that it is because of an unusual talent and screen presence and I may giggle in your general direction.

There, I said it. On with the review.

King Louis XIV is on the throne of France. Heís a spoiled brat-man who beds ladies in waiting then dumps them, treats the peasants the way that certain farm owners around Melbourne treat their horses and is the constant target of Jesuit assassins who seem rather inept at skewering the obnoxious little bastard.

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Louisí captain of the musketeers is DíArtagnan, who has a rock solid and at first inexplicable loyalty to Louis. It isnít until you see his mother, Queen Anne, that this begins to seem believable.

DíArtagnanís former colleagues, Athos, Porthos and Aramis are retired. Aramis to the priesthood, Athos to raising his son Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard) and Porthos to becoming Sir John Falstaff. Raoulís fiancee, the comely Christine is spotted by King Louis, who ambushes her during a piglet hunt and, upon seeing her attachment to Raoul, sends the poor lad off to the front line in the current war where he is promptly blown up by a cannon-ball. Sensing his moment, Louis seduces Christine, whom he had made a lady-in-waiting.

Movie Still, The Man in the Iron Mask, Festivale film review

Athos is, of course, displeased. Malkovich is great in this, wading into a wall of musketeers in a grieving attempt to skewer the King and doing a good job of it until weight of numbers drag him down. DíArtagnan has him released and the former musketeer leaves.

But Aramis has a plan. Queen Anne had twins, the second of whom is in the Bastille in an iron mask, rattling his head against the bars the way other prisoners do a tin-cup. Needless to say, the twins are identical rather than fraternal and the three musketeers formulate a plan to release Phillipe and pull the old switcheroo.

Itís a classic tale that quickens the blood and gives clear cut good guys and bad guys to cheer and hiss respectively. The musketeers are all great. Ironsí ascetic but passionate intellectual, Malkovichís proud father weary of battle and Depardieuís ageing brawler and cocksman who loves life but fears its progression are all wonderful. We know the characters but they are given a third dimension here. Gabriel Byrneís DíArtagnan is blindingly brilliant. In his scenes with Parillaud as Queen Anne he shines brighter than anything else in the film. And she is beautiful, abrim with a passion that cannot be and wracked with the pain caused by the actions of her elder son.

Itís DiCaprio whoís the problem here. Maybe he read something once about the banality of evil and took it to heart in this role. He mistakes raising the voice for true anger and lacks the skill to convey the self-serving duplicity behind his love words to Christine. His voice and manner give nothing for the audience to grasp here. Where we should shudder, we donít. As Phillipe, heís no more than a little boy lost. Even when heís supposed to summon inner reserves of courage and determination, the result is lackluster.

Fortunately, more screen time is given to the Musketeers and they are the true, honest, honourable and valorous heroes we expect. With another actor in a pivotal role, this mightíve been a great film.

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See also: Leonardo DC also appeared in Titanic. (we have reviews, a cover story, and a b&w movie still).
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Title: The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)
Written by:
Directed by: Randall Wallace
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Edited by:
Director of Photography:

The Players:King Louis/Phillippe: Leonardo DiCaprio
Aramis: Jeremy Irons
Athos: John Malkovich
Porthos: Gerard Depardieu
D'Artagnan: Gabriel Byrne
Queen Anne: Anne Parillaud
Christine: Judith Godreche
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