Posted by: Trisha Leigh | April 15, 2011

Film Rec Friday: An Adaptation Gone Brilliantly Right

Title: The Man in the Iron Mask (released March 13, 1998)

What It’s About: Adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ beloved companion to The Three Muskateers, this film picks up the story of Porthos, Athos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan several years into the future. D’Artagnan is the head of young Louis XIV’s Muskateers as the three older men pursue retirement in varying forms. The young king is callous, ruthless, and cruel, earning the hatred of the famous three when he orders the death of Athos’ son in order to woo the young man’s fiancée. Aramis knows a secret – the king is a twin – and enlists the help of his friends in replacing the elder brother with one worthy of the throne.

Who’s In It: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne, Peter Sarsgaard, and Hugh Laurie

Favorite Quote: “I trained these men. They will fight to the death. But if we must die – if WE must die – let it be like this.”

Why You Should See It: It’s so very rare for the components of acting, music, script, and an unforgettable legend come together and blend with such perfect harmony. This is one of the best ensemble casts ever gathered for a film, and their performances are inspired and spot on. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays each brother will subtle brilliance – you will be able to tell them apart simply by looking at his eyes. He’s talented, probably the most talented actor of my generation, but I think the fact that this film was released less than three months after Titanic caused it to be overlooked. Audiences may have been over-saturated with Leo, although that would never happen to me.

John Malkovich, whatever you might say about him, is never less than authentic and his grieving, angry Athos lends heart and motivation to the script. Depardieu and Irons are also faithful to the spirits of the exuberant Porthos and haughty, faithful Aramis in an understated way, causing the Three Muskateers to be just that – the Three Muskateers. No one is more important than the other two, because after all, only as a whole do they become something to love, to root for, to honor.

The film also boasts one of my favorite scores of all time. If I ever write anything that makes it to the silver screen, I will push for Nick Glennie Smith to compose my score. All in all, the legendary tale of Dumas is adapted perfectly; all of its swashbuckling brilliance needs little help connecting with audiences across generations and cultures.

It’s a tale of men who are willing to fight for something “bigger than king, or rank, or reward,” as Athos puts it so passionately. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself, of discovering who you are, and being willing to die for what you believe.

It’s a can’t miss.

What I’m watching right this second: Nothing. There’s a thunderstorm and I’m sitting by my open window and enjoying every moment.



  1. I can’t believe I missed seeing this — it sounds fantastic. Will put it in my Netflix queue at once.

    Confession: I have never seen Titanic, either. But I know how it ends. 😉

    • You will not be sorry. They’re are a few inexcusably cheesy things sprinkled here and there, but otherwise…solid.

      Also, you would enjoy Titanic. It pains me to say that, given that it’s the film that blew James Cameron’s head to an unholy size, but really. It’s pretty hard to hate, ending and all.

  2. Shockingly, I’ve seen this!!! But it was a long time ago. You made me want to see it again.

    • I will watch it with you ANY TIME.

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