15th Aug2023

‘The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan’ Blu-ray Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: François Civil, Vincent Cassel, Romain Duris, Pio Marmai, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Vicky Krieps, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Lyna Khoudri, Eric Ruf, Marc Barbé | Written by Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre de La Patellière | Directed by Martin Bourboulon

Directed by Martin Bourboulon, this French adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel is part one of two, with the second (Milady) due to be released in France in December. Positively bursting with French talent, it’s a swashbuckling treat from start to finish, and the best Dumas adaptation in decades.

Set in 1627, the film begins with young Charles D’Artagnan (François Civil) arriving in Paris from Gascony, his heart set on becoming one of the King’s Musketeers. However, things don’t quite go according to plan, and by noon, he’s accidentally offended three of them – nobleman Athos (Vincent Cassel), fun-loving Porthos (Pio Marmai) and elegant Aramis (Romain Duris) – and been challenged to three separate duels.

However, when their duels are intercepted by guards loyal to Cardinal Richelieu (Eric Ruf), D’Artagnan proves his loyalty by fighting alongside the three Musketeers, and he soon finds himself drawn into a plot that involves saving the reputation of the Queen (Vicky Krieps), after she unwisely gives a piece of jewellery to her English lover Buckingham (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). Along the way, D’Artagnan finds favour with the King (Louis Garrel), falls in love with the Queen’s maid Constance (Lyna Khoudri) and makes an enemy of the duplicitous Milady DeWinter (Eva Green).

The performances are delightful. Civil makes a very charming D’Artagnan, and the central trio of Athos, Porthos and Aramis are cast to perfection. Similarly, Krieps brings emotional depth and sensitivity to the Queen, while Garrel is joyfully foppish as the King.

However, the stand-out is Eva Green as Milady, whose every moment is nothing short of delicious, whether it’s scheming while smoking an amusingly long-stemmed pipe or hiding multiple objects in her cavernous cleavage. It’s been a while since anyone cast Eva Green in something worthy of her prodigious talents, so this is a performance to be savoured.

The script sticks closely to the plot of the novel (which is more than you can say for dozens of other adaptations), but makes a handful of worthwhile tweaks, including extra appearances for Milady (never a bad thing) and a significant setback for Athos that raises the dramatic stakes. There are also minor nods to twenty-first-century sensibilities (such as making Porthos bisexual), although this backfires on one occasion, as it’s fairly certain nobody yelled “Shooter!” in 1625, assassination attempt or no assassination attempt.

Bourboulon clearly understands the requirements of the swashbuckling genre and he maintains an agreeably swift pace throughout, injecting the proceedings with a palpable sense of both energy and enjoyment and staging a series of exciting set pieces, often in single takes with swooping camerawork and multiple things happening in the frame at once. In addition, he brings a thrillingly different approach to the sword-fighting scenes – instead of the flashing rapier clashes associated with the genre, the swords are slightly heftier and people actually get stabbed, often in surprisingly nasty places.

Another slight but important difference is the attention paid to the romance between D’Artagnan and Constance, which usually has a cursory sweetness, but not much else. Here, the flirtatious dialogue between Civil and Khoudri becomes one of the film’s best elements, and their relationship has that much more emotional depth as a result.

The production values are impressively high, convincingly evoking 1625 Paris without looking like a studio set – in other words, there’s plenty of rain and mud and everything looks properly lived-in. There’s also a great score, courtesy of Guillaume Roussel, the icing on an already sumptuous cake.

This being Part One, it is only fair to warn audiences that the film ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s the sort of cliffhanger that will have you champing at the bit for Part Two. Furthermore, as if that wasn’t enough of a tease, there’s also an unexpected mid-credits sting during the end credits, so make sure you stick around for that.

Splendidly directed and perfectly acted, this is a thoroughly enjoyable swashbuckling adventure that’s so pleasingly faithful to the source material that you can imagine Dumas himself grinning with glee. Part Two simply can’t come fast enough.

**** 4/5

The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan is out now on DVD and Blu-ray from Entertainment in Video.


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