107. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The Three Muskateers back in the nineties and two Leos. Need I say more?

Directed by: Randall Wallace
Written by: Randall Wallace
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich

While The Man in the Iron Mask has its fair share of tacky moments, this late nineties adaptation of Alexander Dumas’ famous novel is a treat for those who want to see John Malkovich brushing his long hair out of his face, a young Jeremy Irons shouting out cheesy one-liners and Leonardo DiCaprio starting to step into the shoes of a long acting career.

King Louis XIV (DiCaprio) has made the city of Paris suffer starvation while he lives in luxury. Being selfish, cruel and a player with the women, King Louis XIV holds a secret that has long been kept from his mother, and his closest musketeer D’Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) – he has an identical twin brother imprisoned in an iron mask with no knowledge of his rights to the throne. When the Three Musketeers reunite to swap the “man in the iron mask” and the unworthy king, they must come up with a clever way of making this happen without raising any suspicion.

Seriously.. this mask is a lot itchier than it looks.

Only, there is no clever way of making the switch. Without a tense climax and too much dialogue, happy-go-lucky montages and cheap slapstick jokes to keep us entertained, The Man in the Iron Mask lacks the excitement and compelling sense of storytelling that is inherently embedded in Dumas’ story idea. This may have something to do with the fact that Leo’s acting isn’t as impressive as it was in Titanic and Romeo+Juliet, which were also released around this time. As Leo’s role as the hateful King fails to be as convincing as his more compassionate twin, the lack of a stark contrast between the two characters softens the dramatic quality of the story and doesn’t fuel the mission of the muskateers.

Having said that, as a film that takes the easy way out on just about every possible story element and filmmaking choice, the blooming costumes, double vision of Leo and picturing Scar from The Lion King while Jeremy Irons speaks is very enjoyable. (You can see how seriously I took this movie…)


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