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.

Review: ‘Inception’

It was a fascinating concept: what could happen when people can invade your dreams and find out the deepest, darkest parts of your subconscious? Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ went one step further, seeing dreams turn to devastation when the idea became a nightmare.

Leonardo Di Caprio’s welcome return to cinema screens saw him playing the devastated husband and father, whose illegitimate wandering into dreams to extract information had left him alone and unsatisfied with his life, until inception offered him a way out of his isolation. Di Caprio’s role as Dom Cobb allowed him to connect with the audience through his hidden grief, which was especially poignant upon him finding Saito in limbo and struggling to contain his emotion when having to recapture reality. Marion Cotillard complimented him perfectly as an externalisation of his internal grief, combining the hurt, devastation and anger Cobb felt within his grief to show his struggle with his original experience of inception.

Two of the strongest characters, in my opinion, came from the supporting actors: both Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Eames (Tom Hardy) were able to finish the construction of a reality dominated by the subconscious perfectly, completing the illusion of the team instead of leaving Di Caprio to carry the weight of the script on his own. Levitt’s smoothness and Hardy’s comic timing enabled them to add an extra level of depth to the story which enabled it to be successful, and without their abilities I don’t think the storyline would have been as easily portrayed. Equally, Cillian Murphy (as Robert Fischer) was fabulous, as he played the unaware victim perfectly to show that level of vulnerability that we expected within his dreams.

The only thing that truly confused me was the ending: was it the inevitable ‘it was all a dream’ ending? In one way, this is genius, as it makes you continue thinking about the film for days after you’ve seen it. On the other hand, for someone like me who needs a definitive ending, it can prove very irritating. Either way, though, it proved a ‘happily ever after’ for Cobb, as whether dreaming or not, he finally got to call out and make his children turn around for him.