Review: ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’

To clear up any confusion, I am on about the film here, not Dumas’ novel, which I have yet to read. No: here, I am on about one of Leonardo Di Caprio’s more brilliant yet less remembered role in the 1998 film version.

In fact, I’m still watching the film, the last time having been when I was waiting for my dad to pick me up at my nan’s, when we stumbled upon it on one of the terrestrial channels – and I have to say, I’m incredibly glad that we did.

Di Caprio has to have pulled off one of the greatest double acts on screen – I don’t think there’s a moment when I connect Louis and Phillipe as the same actor. When Phillipe says that he wears the mask, it does not wear him, the same can be applied to the gorgeous Leo’s acting – he defines the role, the role does not define him. He strives to a level of believability that is unequalled in other major films.

The storyline itself is fabulous – it could be incredibly complicated, but instead it is kept to a heart-warming simplicity that allows it to connect with the audience. The straight and narrow path that leads from beginning to end rarely veers from its path: Raoul (Peter Saarsgard) is killed early on, which serves to show Athos’ devotion to Phillipe, and likewise Christine (Judith Godreche) only serves as a vehicle to highlight Louis’ corruption. The only negative in this is the underuse of D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), whose constant puppy-dog eyes could have been extended from his dutiful heartbreak to absolute turmoil at his inner conflict, but I don’t feel he was really given the chance to do this.

The valor of the three musketeers is preserved in the spectacular gunfire scene towards the end – walking through the smoke encapsulates the legends of the men who cry ‘One for all, and all for one’. The other musketeers decision not to fight Athos (John Malkovich), Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) and Aramis (Jeremy Irons), instead branding them ‘magnificent’, brought their quest into a new and even more honourable light, and underline their heroism. D’Artganan’s tragic demise and Phillipe’s reaction to it embellish this point, creating a resonance as you realise the price at which liberty comes.

Of course, the film isn’t all dark and revolutionary. The inclusion of Porthos as a comedic characters lightens the atmosphere, ensuring that the film doesn’t cause an onset of depression. Although it may cause an onset of blindness when a naked Porthos tries to hang himself after failing to literally roll in the hay with his trio of women. If Shakespeare teaches us anything, it’s that a little light relief can go a long way to stopping your audience bringing the barn down in their own fit of depression, a lesson Randall Wallace and co. have done well to learn from.

‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ is a feat of several acting legends pulling together to live the famous saying of ‘one for all and all for one’, especially in showing that one actor can play all roles spectacularly without treading on his own feet, and for that, Leonardo Di Caprio’s less-renowned film deserves to be placed near the likes of ‘Titanic’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for its ability to capture hearts and minds.

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