Originally written for The Occidental
Every so often, a film shows up which is so much fun in every respect that it is a pleasure to review it. In the case of The Man in the Iron Mask, the joy of writing about a wonderful movie is doubled by the chance to redeem a film so often maligned by my fellow film critics.
The most obviously amazing aspect of The Man in the Iron Mask is its cast. Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, and Gabriel Byrne are already well established as fantastic actors, and Leonardo DiCaprio is beginning to gain attention as a young and talented actor with a lot of potential. Add to this a straightforward plot (important to the success of any action drama), wonderful costuming and sets, and competent music, and the result is a tight, enjoyable roller-coaster ride of a film.
Since The Man in the Iron Mask is based on a book by Alexandre Dumas, its plot is at once simple and complex, and although it takes its time before plunging the audience into the thick of the action, once it gets rolling, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. There is the main thread, the plot to dethrone King Louis XIV, as well as several subplots and secrets. As with most of Dumas’ work, the tale is at once predictable and fun — the fact that anyone with half a brain can probably tell what is going to happen before it does doesn’t impair the ride of the film at all. Most movies today are predictable, but few have as much style as The Man in the Iron Mask.
As the film opens, Athos (Malkovich), Aramis (Irons), Porthos (Depardieu), and D’Artagnan (Byrne), first introduced in The Three Musketeers, are still fast friends, although D’Artagnan is the only one still in the Musketeers. King Louis (DiCaprio) is conducting an expensive war which makes keeping his people fed almost impossible. When he learns that the Jesuit order has been conspiring against him because of this, Louis calls upon Aramis (who has become a priest in the time since he left the Musketeers) and orders him to find the leader of the Jesuits and kill him. The problem with that is, Aramis is the leader of the Jesuits (are you surprised?). So, Aramis calls his old friends to him, and presents a cunning plan: replace the king with a look-alike who will be a better ruler. D’Artagnan is devoted to the king and won’t even listen to the plan, but the other two are eager for it. Athos’s son was killed in the war because Louis wanted to seduce his fianc