Directed by: Kevin Reynolds
Written by:Jay Wolpert
Starring: James Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain, Luis Guzman, Dagmara Dominczyk, Michael Wincott
Released: May 2, 2002
Grade: B+

The Count Of Monte Cristo is a satisfying film in that it offers more than the standardised “ordinary guy becomes extraordinary hero” story.  What gives it kick is a deep screenplay adapted from the classic novel written by Alexandre Dumas.  The story’s essence is simple but the journey makes it worth the trip.

Edmond Dantes (Caviezel) and Fernand Mondego (Pearce) are two friends who make a living on the sea by transporting cargo.  When the captain of the boat dies, Edmond is appointed the new captain and with it comes a large rise in salary.  Further, he is madly in love with Mercedes Iguanada (Dominczyk) who reciprocates this feeling and the two plan to be married in the near future.

Fernand is jealous of both Edmond’s success and woman.  He unsuccessfully attempts to frame Edmond for treason but it a twist of fate, finds an ally in the prosecutor Monsieur de Villefort and they make a deal for their own benefit.  Edmond is taken to an island prison to spend the rest of his life whilst Mercedes and his family have been told he was executed.

Spending 13 years in a tiny, dimly lit cell, Edmond loses all feeling for life but finds it reinvigorated thanks to the help of Abbe Faria (Harris), another cellmate who is slowly digging an escape tunnel.  In return for Edmond’s help in digging the escape route, Abbe gives Edmond an education.  He teaches him how to read, how to write and importantly, how to fight.  He also gives him something else.  A map to the island of Monte Cristo revealing the location of a hidden treasure that will make him wealthier than his wildest dreams.

And so Edmond escapes and finds the treasure.  Instead of beginning a new life of riches, he is determined to seek revenge upon those who took his old one.  Targeting Fernand and Villefort, Edmond begins an elaborate game to destroy the reputation of these two men.  Edmond renames himself the Count Of Monte Cristo and his power and fortune give him the platform to begin his vengeance...

The novel has been adapted many times before on screen which makes you wonder why they’d choose to do it again.  Perhaps because it is a proven concept that the studio knows the public will accept.  James Caviezel gives the film’s best performance with Guy Pearce slightly over-playing his role although I conceded it positively increased my dislike for the character.  Richard Harris’ small cameo provided some light-hearted fun during the film’s mid-section.

The costumes are an easily identifiable highlight and I single out a scene in which Fernand’s son has a birthday party to provide evidence.  The story flows fell and there are few lulls thanks to expert direction from Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, Waterworld).  There’s a good mix of action, drama, thrills and laughs to provide value for your investment.  Like his previous films and with the help of a coastal Ireland backdrop, The Count Of Monte Cristo is an enjoyable adventure best savoured on the bigger screen.  And yes, there’s the assurance that you all know how it’s going to end.