Customer Reviews: The Man In The Iron Mask
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on February 17, 2005
I don't know why I did not see the 1998 version of Man in the Iron Mask while it played in theaters. In a way I'm glad I didn't see it then - I surely would have embarrassed myself, because it would not have occurred to me that I would need a half-box of Kleenex at the end! I finally watched the movie in my own living room when it came to HBO several years ago, but while I enjoyed the movie at the time, it did not leave me with the urgent desire to see it again. However, I did watch the movie again recently, and now for some unexplainable reason, I can't seem to get enough of it. I have the DVD, and it is the movie I most often reach for on a quiet evening of lousy television.

Those who are expecting a faithful adaptation of the book will come away sorely disappointed, and if that is their measure of the movie, they will do best to avoid this one. However, those who love the characters, who don't mind seeing new adaptations and interesting plot twists, and who love rich costumes and set designs will find this movie wonderfully entertaining. And that is what it is all about, isn't it? Entertainment.

I have read many reviews regarding this movie, and am puzzled, even dismayed at times, by some of the criticisms levied at various aspects of it. Some people have complained about the dialogue in the movie, calling it "flowery", but truthfully I loved the fact that Randall Wallace did not modernize it. So many new films and TV series are "dumbing down" the dialogue of period pieces to make them more compatible with today's manner of speaking. I applaud Mr. Wallace for keeping the dialogue consistent with how it likely would have been spoken in the 17th century.

Still others complained of the unlikelihood of all four Musketeers surviving a volley of musketfire during the final charge. If they had been watching properly, they would have noticed that the young Musketeers were turning their faces away, closing their eyes as they pulled the triggers. And after the first few shots, powder smoke begins to fill the corridor, obscuring their vision. So the lack of accuracy in their volley is adequately explained on more than one count. Moreover, if the critics had been watching more closely, they would have noticed that there are woundings -- D'Artagnan is hit in the shoulder, Athos in the thigh. The other two are also limping, and the script confirms that all four are wounded in the barrage.

As for the complaints that the four leads have four different accents, I did not find them distracting or annoying, as some have claimed. I expected it, since this is an International Cast, and with an International Cast, you get International accents.

And speaking of the cast, I must say that in all the Musketeers movies I've seen, this is the strongest cast ever. The primary performers, Jeremy Irons, Gabriel Byrne, Gerard Depardieu, and John Malkovich, all turn in exquisite performances, and Leonardo DiCaprio is, in my opinion, convincing as Louis and Philippe, even though he is upstaged by the other four. Anne Parilloud is simply lovely as the Queen Mother, and the moments she shares with Byrne's D'Artagnan are some of the best in the film. The love scene between them, as brief as it was, is as beautiful as any I've ever seen (this coming from someone who is not a true fan of romance! I was left wanting more!). The music is brilliant and sets the mood perfectly for each scene. The wardrobe is exceptional, especially the black uniforms of the old musketeers.

Particularly nice touches in this movie are the attention to detail: The roses left for the queen speaks as decisively of D'Artagnan's love for her as words ever could (And yes, I really liked the plot twist involving the twins' paternity); Philippe dragging his masked head back and forth over the grating in frustration while in prison; the unmasking of Philippe in a dark blacksmith's forge, his hair wrapped around his neck where, as it grew, it was unable to escape the confines of the mask; Lieutenant Andre's devotion to D'Artagnan throughout the film and the way he looks away when the king orders the volley, unable to watch his captain cut down; the rich, fancy costumes contrast the torn, sweat-stained clothing where appropriate.

The movie is not without its faults, though. The first scene involving Porthos and Aramis, for example, contains some crude language regarding parts of both the male and female anatomy and Porthos's flatulence, both of which seemed out of place, and actually got the film off to a shaky start. The first time I watched it, I almost turned it off at this point. I also could have lived quite happily without ever having seen the bulls-eye glimpses of Porthos' naked rear end. While I'm sure some of Depardieu's fans loved it, the scene did nothing to advance the plot, in my opinion. There is hardly an actor or actress out there these days that has not done a nude, but quite frankly, some things are just better left to the imagination. I'm smiling as I write this, but truly, the scene was unnecessary. Thankfully, there is a "skip" button on my DVD player! And yes, I do use it.

Those few faults are forgivable when surrounded by so many other details that are so elegantly done. For me, it was a very pleasing movie experience, one I enjoy over and over again. Kudos to everyone involved. Now, if I can just convince Randall Wallace to release a director's cut version . . . .
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I know why I like this movie and it is simply because "The Man in the Iron Mask" does for swordplay movies what "Space Cowboys" did for space movies. It allowed a bunch of older actors to have fun in parts usually reserved for the younger set. I can just imagine John Malkovich's eyes lighting up at the thought of somebody asking him to play one of the Three Musketeers (Athos). The same goes for Jeremy Irons (Aramis), Gerard Depardieu (Porthos) and Gabriel Byrne (D'Artagnan). The key line for me in the movie is when Lieutenant Andre (Edward Atterton) points to D'Artagnan and says "All of my life all I ever wanted to be was HIM." But you can substitute any one of the Musketeers in that statement. I just cannot imagine any Hollywood actor of my age turning down this script. You get to be one of the Three Musketeers!
So I am onboard for the fun. This is a solid "B" movie and I do not care that Leonardo DiCaprio is the big name at the top of the cast list. He is a talent actor, but as in "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet" he once again shows he does not have a feel for the diction of costume drama; but his Phillippe is a much richer performance than his King Louis. Yes, I can list lots of other problems with this film. Depardieu and Judith Godreche as Christine are the only ones running around with "real" French accents for one thing. But the film is, all things considered, fairly faithful to the Alexandre Dumas novel (by Hollywood standards) until the final act. I actually liked the "twist" by writer-director Randall Wallace and was not bothered that the survival rate of the Musketeer quarter is the exact opposite in the film that it was in the novel.
But above all I liked watching Malkovich, whose ability to provide nuance into underplaying a role is exquisite and it is so much fun watching him draw his swords and have at it. Depardieu has fun as the bawdry brawler of the bunch, although the script relegates him to the comic relief part of the festivities. Irons provides the most panache of the quartet and the twinkle in his eyes as Aramis hatches his master plan to restore the honor of France counterbalances the deadness in the eyes of Athos after the death of his son. Byrne gets to play a pillar of virtue and his character is more a reflection of the good opinion of everybody else. It is only in his affection for Queen Anne (Anne Parillaud in a dignified but heartfelt performance) and his attempts to instruct Louis that his heart comes through. "The Man in the Iron Mask" is, like the novel, not a great story but more of a grand adventure.
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on January 20, 2000
The only reason I rented this video is because the new releases I wanted to see were checked out. To begin with, I'm not a big fan of period pieces featuring performers speaking in an accent appropriate for their role. Even if the performer masters a particular dialect, I still find it a distracting affectation. Also, a little of one accent goes a long way, especially if you're not too fond of a particular accent; I like a french accent well enough, but am still glad the whole cast didn't speak in one. I found it refreshing that the performers in this film weren't required to speak in a foreign accent, or more precisely, an accent foreign to them. I don't think it took anything away from their characters' authenticity; all the actors were very convincing, even moreso, without an affected accent.
Since I'm not a big fan of swashbucking, action type movies or romantic movies, I wasn't attracted to the subject matter of this movie, nor to Leonardo DiCaprio's face on the jacket (although I'm not on the Leonardo-bashing bandwagon; I don't think he deserves all the bashing he gets). I hadn't even heard of Gabriel Byrne or the supporting actresses, but had seen Malkovich, Irons and Depardieu enough to know there would be quality acting in this film. So, having grown bored with browsing, I rented it, having no idea that I was in for such a pleasant surprise which would bring about a few first time experiences for me.
My first "first" was that I wanted to see it again - and again & again! I don't ususally want to see a movie again (especially within a short period of time), but this movie more than just impressed me, it enchanted me. I thought every performer in it, even those with bit parts, was outstanding -- yes, including Leonardo DiCaprio. Although he lacks the special magic that Gabriel Byrne, John Malkovich and Jeremy Irons bring to a performance, Leonardo DiCaprio still handled his dual role well by effectively conveying the differences in his characters - not only in tone & affect, but by the way he could change his eyes from the "sad puppy" eyes of Phillipe to the cold, steely eyes of Louis.
I also found the story interesting (not having read the book first, I wasn't thrown off by the affair) and thought the scenery, costumes, makeup and hair was great (except for D'Artagnon's hair, severely parted way over to the side for some reason, which was a very unflattering style for him).
The music was so appropriate and moving that I even bought the soundtrack, which is also something I've never done as a result of seeing a movie.
And, another first: In all my years, I've never been as captivated, not only by a character (D'Artagnon), but by an actor as I am with Gabriel Byrne. Seeing him for the first time in this movie has prompted me to see more of his work, and I've come to realize that there's something in him, not just his characters, that touches my very soul.
I never expected a video I halfheartedly rented one evening to be one of the best movies I've seen in my life. I wonder why "Titanic" got 11 awards while the people involved with this film didn't get nearly the credit they deserve?
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on January 20, 2012
An otherwise excellent movie spoiled by one miscast. Good story, good adaptation and good acting but DiCaprio is just NOT The Type to play the role of Louis XIV, not to mention his frequent mispronunciation of the names of the major characters. What a shame!
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VINE VOICEon February 29, 2016
I remember this movie from when it first came out. I wasn't sure how it would age. I think the cast is an odd ensemble. I wouldn't think the Musketeers would work well at all because they are all so different. They are all strong actors individually and do a good job individually, yet you put them together and it feels weird. Yet somehow it works. DiCaprio is too young and immature for his role, but this also works.

By "works" I mean that every time I've watched it, I have felt moved when I was supposed to feel moved. I even know how the story goes, and I still feel emotional when watching it. It's a really horrible story with a satisfying ending.
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on January 7, 2007
Without ever attaining indisputable literary merit, Alexandre Dumas, succeeded in gaining a great reputation first as a dramatist and then as a historical novelist, especially for such works as 'The Count of Monte Cristo,' and 'The Three Musketeers.' He was among the first, along with Honoré de Balzac and Eugène Sue, who fully presented a rich, detailed picture of life in early 19th century - France, creating characters of formidable individuality and willpower...

'The Man in the Iron Mask' takes place in 1662, where a spoiled young king rules in decadent luxury while his subjects are starving in the streets... His armies fight unjust wars... His selfish actions result in deep resentment by the people... He is currently under siege by rebellions... His tyrannical disposition prompts the original 'Three Musketeers' to believe that France will never prosper unless a change is made... Our musketeers have all grown into middle age, and their exploits have become legendary...

When the son of Athos is sent to the front lines of battle, and killed the aging 'Three Musketeers' (Athos, Porthos and Aramis ) are forced to haul out their old uniforms into active rebellion against the crown... They come up with a plan to expel the tyrant from his throne... A carefully guarded secret works to their advantage...

Aramis knows of an enigmatic Bastille prisoner, a helpless victim of the king's justice, whose true identity and existence is unknown to most... This mysterious young man has been thrown into loneliness and pain in a dungeon for six years, forced to wear an affixed iron mask so no-one can notice how much he looks like the king...

In a risky maneuver to save France, the 'Three Musketeers' break the title character out of prison, teach him to behave exactly like the king, and then set off to make the 'switch' in a masquerade ball...

As their plan unfolds, they must confront their friend, the great D'Artagan, one-time "fourth Musketeer," now head of the king's bodyguards, who has sworn an oath to protect the king with his life...

DiCaprio plays two characters so distinctly and effectively that you absolutely hate one and love the other...

He is King Louis, a non-caring leader who lets his subjects starve and riot in the streets of Paris... He is a vile ice-hearted seducer mostly interested in bedding attractive young women... He displays, with talent, King Louis' arrogance and cruelty... DiCaprio is also the gentle Philippe, the polar opposite of Louis... Philippe has the heart of a king, with eyes asking too much...

Gerard Depardieu is delightful as the old and weak Porthos, the womanizer, more concerned with the pains of growing older... Porthos feels useless unable even to "straighten his sword" when in the hay with three women...

John Malkovich is the straightforward Athos, now an impulsive widower and an angry father who has his own need for revenge against the King's treachery... Two time Oscar nominee for "Places in the Heart" and "In the Line of Fire," Malkovich makes the point that ideally, they should have a king worthy of their service...

Jeremy Irons is the contemplative Aramis, the justice leader of a silent rebellion.... As the Jesuits oppose Louis' wars, and the starvation that results, Aramis is ordered to discover the true identity of the general of the Jesuit's order and to execute him... In one moment, Jeremy Irons (an Oscar winner for 1990's "Reversal of Fortune"), dignifies the true mission of a Musketeer when he states: 'When we were young men, and we saw injustice, we fought it!'

Gabriel Byrne is the faithful D'Artagnan who carries a mysterious secret with him... His dark romantic secrets are hidden in his sad look... Byrne has the right combination of gravity and flair for the conflicted D'Artagnan, especially in the scene where he placates an angry mob... He projects his character's romantic frustration and his crisis of conscience, and desperately tries to find a balance between his loyalty to the king and his ability to live up to the code of the Musketeers...

Anne Parillaud is the twins' mother, Anne d'Autriche, torn between her passion and her maternal love toward a son completely far from the path of compassion and honor...

Judith Godrèche is the damsel in distress, the beautiful Christine torn between being faithful to her dead love and helping out her poor family by basically selling her body to a lusting king...

The film's authenticity and visual presentation are as glorious in the decadent luxury surrounding the King of France as grotesque in the terrible place occupied by the man in the iron mask...

Randall Wallace (Oscar-nominated for "Braveheart's" script) brings the great palace of Versailles to life with elegance and finesse... The beauty of the gardens defies verbal explanation... The music is beautiful and epic, and the motion picture is done with pride and conviction...

The masked prisoner actually existed in reality... But his identity was never known and it's of little consequence here... The film, however, is not exactly faithful when it comes to historical facts... It has been created for pleasant entertainment purposes... Louis XIV of France, whose great prestige earned him the title of 'the Sun King', ruled France in one of its most brilliant periods and remains the symbol of absolute monarchy of the classic age...
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on March 28, 2002
"The Man in the Iron Mask" proves at least two things. The first thing is that it's still possible to make a rousing, entertaining epic with minimal use of digital FX. The second is that action adventure films still work best when they don't take themselves seriously. If you don't believe that, may I remind you that the James Bond series has run for a record 40 years?
In this case DiCaprio gets to play the evil Louis the Fourteenth of France and his all too good twin brother, whom Louis has put in an iron mask and thrown into a truly nasty prison. The two totally different characters are believably played by DiCaprio. There is never any confusion as to which twin is on screen, yet one gets the impression that this is all a piece of cake for the film's young star.
This is the France of 1662. I am not a good student of French history, but the locations, costumes and customs appear to be fairly accurate for that time period. Also the film is reasonable faithful to X's novel. The author took an obscure bit of French history and spun an intricate story from it. For in that year, there actually was a French prisoner who was listed in the prison registry only by a series of numbers followed by the words 'the man in the iron mask'. Since Louis the Fourteenth became king at a very young age, he was quite the brat. As he grew older, he became one of France's greatest rulers. So, who's to say there wasn't a hidden twin?
Even without DiCaprio, this film has a remarkable cast. Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu and Gabriel Byrne play the famous Musketeers. Now retired, they are forced to regroup due to the insane acts committed by Louis. These include having one of their sons killed in the same way King Solomon got rid of Sheba's husband. When he is informed that the peasants of Paris are starving, he dispatches rotting food to them. When they justifiably complain, his suggestion is to shoot them.
One of the cleverest plot devices is to have one of the musketeers - the great Gerard Depardieu's character - show that time takes its toll on everyone. He is flabby, depressed.... Of course, in true Hollywood style, he makes a big comeback, but until he does, he is uproariously funny.
Anne Parilland plays the Queen Mother with that cutting edge of grace and beauty that is peculiar to the French. Her character is also full of surprises. As the beauty Louis wants so badly that he kills to get her, Judith Goodreche is quite well cast. She is innocence personified.
While not at all original, the musical score by Nick Glenne-Smith is the rich, melodic type one expects in such a film. I was disappointed, however, by one musical aspect. There are some lavishly produced ballroom sequences. The dances are wonderful, but the music is scored for instruments which, for the most part, did not exist in the 17th Century.
"The Man in the Iron Mask" did great business overseas, but was disappointing here. I suspect that this was because DiCaprio became an overnight romantic hero in "Titanic", which was released two months earlier. In this film the only romance happens with the evil Louis. The good twin, as in the book, must spend his time reclaiming his destiny with the help of the Old Musketeers. This left his enormous following of female fans little to bond with. I also suspect that, for the average young American male, the concept of DiCaprio as an action hero is, shall we say, slightly ahead of its time.
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After a cursory scrolling through the previous 190 reviews on this film I've come to the conclusion that the '98 release, `The Man in the Iron Mask' is one of those movies you either love or hate. As for me, I love it!

The scenery is exquisite, the soundtrack inspirational and uplifting, the storyline epic and filled with pathos and the cast is amazing. Gerard Depardeieu (Porthos), John Malkovich (Athos), Jeremy Irons (Aramis) and Gabriel Bryne (D'Artagnan) breathe new life into Dumas' musketeers mythos. Seeing these four legendary warriors gallantly charge King Louie's muskets as they fire from point blank range was as heroic a scene as I've ever seen captured on film. It gives me goose bumps just to think about it.

As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he is magnificent in the dual role of King Louis XIV of France and his twin brother Philippe. His ability to appear so arrogant, hateful and despicable as King Louie one minute and transform himself into the timid, emotional and caring Philippe a moment later is truly amazing. This is by far my favorite DiCaprio performance.

This is a film that can be watched over and over again without losing its emotional impact on the viewer. 'The Man in the Iron Mask' is a keeper, I wholeheartedly recommend that you add it to your personal DVD library.
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on April 20, 2016
Always liked this movie, the cast is perfect and I always loved Leonardo DiCaprio in this as the good, brave and kind hearted Philippe. The rest of the cast is, as I stated before, spot on and the actors who play the four original musketeers make this show golden! The only part of the movie I never liked much is what became of poor Christine, always believed she deserved a better ending to her story than what she got. But still one of my all time favorites, now if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch The Man in the Iron Mask, again. ;)
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on October 31, 2002
Ok, to start, I just want to say that I am in no way a Three Musketeer fan. I wouldn't even look their way usually...but a friend of mine insisted that we watch this movie. Grunting, and with only Encino Man as another option, I agreed on this flick. The movie started innocently enough, and to tell most the truth, I didn't even give it a chance. Normally if you go into something with just the thought of "this is going to [stink]", it most likely will. This was not the case for me when I was watching it though...
STORY/PLOT: The plot, characters, scenery, and fighting is all top-notch from what I saw. Every person I saw drew me to like them, and I found myself cheering for the original Three (Four) Musketeers even until the end. You'll be surprised how little bad-knowledge you need on the trio (quartet) to really enjoy this film. And although the main point is focused on something other than the Musketeers, they still manage to play a major role in the movie.
DVD QUALITY/EXTRAS: The video is really crisp and I noticed no real distortion in the movie. Sound was also very nice (as all DVDs should be) and I wouldn't hesitate to rate the audio up with such others as Braveheart and Gladiator. Since it was my friend's, I really didn't get a look at ALL of the contents of the disc, but from what I could tell, it was a moderate DVD. The extras are the usual for this type of film, and don't offer anything spectacular or independent from other don't buy this DVD for content.
OTHER: The only problem I have with this movie is everyone seems to hate it. I can only guess that a lot of guys go to see it and get turned off by Leonardo DiCaprio's major role as king in the movie. I'm not big on Leonardo DiCaprio either, but I feel that he deserves a chance in this one. [SPOILER] He manages to play two roles, and I feel since they were opposite personalities he pulled the role off perfectly as two completely different people. [END OF SPOILER]
FIN~: To wrap things up, if you are used to cool swashbuckling scenes, as well as some great story-telling, I reccomend this movie to most. The only people that should steer clear of this movie are: people that totally hate Leonardo Dicaprio movies, people that don't like French stories, and people that need lots of non-stop action. For you out there who like exquisite scenery, romance, and all of the other things I've listed...then this movie is for you.
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