Director: Kevin Reynolds
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, Luiz Guzman
Released: January 25, 2002
Viewed in theaters: February 8, 2002
According to Wikipedia, this is the tenth adaptation of Alexander Dumas's novel, but I think it is the only one I've seen. Edmond Dantes (Caviezel) and Fernand Mondego (Pearce) are best friends, or at least Edmond thinks so. Fernand is jealous of him because he is marrying the beautiful Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk) and has been promoted to captain, both are things that Fernand wants even though he is wealthy (Edmond is poor) and educated (Edmond can't read).
Edmond is betrayed by his so-called best friend when he is arrested for treason. He was set up to deliver a compromising letter and when he runs away to seek help from Fernand, that's when he realizes that Fernand was behind the plan to help get him sent away to prison. He is sent to a prison on an island called Chateau d'If. There he is thrown into a stone room and only gets fed once a day and his toilet pail is emptied once a day. His only human contact occurs once a year on his anniversary of being in prison when he is chained to a wall and whipped. After being there for one year, he attempts to hang himself, but the message he chiseled into the stone wall, God will give me justice, stops him. Four years pass and that's when he discovers he had a neighbor prisoner below him all this time when a priest (Harris) comes tunneling out of the floor, thinking he was headed for the outside. He asks to stand on Edmond's shoulders so he can see a sliver of sky and thanks him, saying he hasn't seen the sky in eleven years which is the saddest thing ever.
Since neither have anything better to do, the priests teaches Edmond reading, writing, math, philosophy, and how to fight with a sword among many other things. Since they are only interrupted twice a day by the prison guards, they have the rest of the entire day to work on Edmond's education. That's not the only thing they're working on as they are also creating a tunnel to escape.
For an actor of his age, Richard Harris sure does a lot of physical stuff - he's dragged by his arms, he climbs up and down holes, he runs around the cell as he teaches his prodigy how to sword fight. He was sure a spry old man!
It had been a very long time since I last saw this movie (12 years) so I felt pretty smug when I knew how Edmond was going to escape. When I saw the large bag the prison guards put the priest's body in, I blurted out, "He's going to use that bag to escape!" Yes, I know, it was so obvious, but I was pretty proud of myself. When a guard goes to feed Edmond and his bowl is not produced in front of the door, that is when the guard becomes suspicious and sees the priest's dead body and goes out to warn the others that they are taking out a live person. Why he just didn't have his bowl already ready to go, I don't know. Maybe he wanted them to know he had escaped? What I had totally forgotten was that they threw the bag over the cliff which the prison sits upon! And I'm like, "Oh sh--", even though I know he survives, duh. But that was a long fall with lots of rocks waiting to meet him at the bottom. How he managed to miss those rocks is only a miracle. Luckily he was able to grab the keys from the head guard before he was thrown so he could unlock his shackles.
Altogether, he was in that prison for 13 years of his life and enjoys his freedom quite immensely when he escapes. He washes up on another deserted island where he meets a band of pirates who want him to come work for them. They are to kill one of their traitors, Jacapo (Guzman), but Edmond convinces them to spare his life and Jacapo tells Edmond he will be forever indebted to him for the rest of his life.
Edmond's first stop is to get the treasure the priest told him about and after he and Jacapo haul out eight huge trunks from an underwater cove, Jacapo declares him the richest man he's ever known. Edmond decides his new alias will be the Count of Monte Cristo. He invites everyone to a lavish party on the ground of his new mansion where he makes his grand entrance on a hot air balloon with acrobats and fireworks. All I could think of was if I read about some rich person doing this it at a party, I would roll my eyes so far back into my head. Cinematically, it made a pretty cool scene. But he did make an entrance, which is what he wanted. Unfortunately the two people he most wanted to be there to see his entrance weren't there.
He vows revenge on those who were the reason he was sent to prison, especially his ex-BFF, Fernand who, he learns, has married Mercedes. He's not too happy with Mercedes either when he learns of this, especially since she promised him 13 years ago that she would never take off the ring of twine that symbolized her eternal love and faithfulness for Edmond. Well maybe not eternal faithfulness anymore seeing as she and Fernand have a sixteen year old son named Albert (played by Henry Cavill who played (plays? - I suppose it's an ongoing franchise) Superman in the latest movie that I never saw and don't intend on ever seeing). Edmond gets through to Fernand and Mercedes by fake-saving their son after he has him set up to be "kidnapped" by his old pirate friends. He is invited to their (ridiculously opulent) home to be thanked for saving their son. Mercedes immediately has suspicion of him, telling him he reminds her of someone she knew quite well a long time ago. It isn't until she sees him playing with his hair -just like Edmond used to do!- that she knows it really is and demand to know where he's been all this time but he pretends to not know what she's talking about, declaring, "Edmond Dantes is dead!" Of course she calls him out on knowing that name if he claims to now know who she is talking about. Duh! He finally admits it is really him and is angry at her for marrying Fernand so soon after he was sent to prison. Remember when I said that Albert was Fernand's son? Well, he was actually Edmond's son and that's why Mercedes had to marry Fernand so quickly. It's just like a soap opera!
In the end, Albert gets his revenge and lives happily ever after with his family. By far the most interesting part of the movie is when he's in the prison with Richard Harris.