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MOVIES: The Three Musketeers - D'Artagnan: Part 1 - Review

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Part one in a two-parter depicting Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers in one of the more faithful retellings of the classics comes this swashbuckling French epic by Martin Bourboulon that spares no expense in bringing the characters to screen - plunging us into a world of French court justice; treason and adventure - opening with D'Artagnan, who discovers a conspiracy before he arrives in Paris - this film sees him challenge three men one-by-one to a duel at noon. When they all turn up at once he's realised he's made a mistake - these are the three Musketeers - Athos, Porthos and Aramis (Vincent Cassell, Romain Duris, Pio Marmai), who are attacked before the duel can be completed by a rival duke's soldiers. And thus an uneasy bond is formed - and history will be made.

It's been ages since we had a good swashbuckler and opening with an infectiously fun one take fight sequence set in the woodland outside of Paris; The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan is no different. It's operatic, bringing in plenty of big names to its cast - Eva Green plays Milady, and Vicky Krieps delivers a memorable performance as the Queen of France - caught in an affair with an Englishman that could jeopardise the kingdom. Its extra length and the decision to make this film a two parter gives us room to get into the headspace of the characters - D'Artagnan, a cocky little shit, is charming and likeable as ever - and I did like how the film gave Milady more to do in this one, wiht the villain being more than a match for any of her foes - a high stakes excursion to England is where the film really comes into its own in the second act.

You buy the world and the scenery is exquisite - I love the usage of locations here. The combat is brutal; intense and often lethal - people may survive gunshot wounds more times than you'd think possible but only a minor problem it seems; there are greater offenders elsewhere currently in cinemas. It does allow for higher stakes - and whilst yes, there is a cliffhanger ending, that should only be a problem if the UK doesn't pick up Part Two for a UK release date - a very real problem given how warped distribution has been lately.

The dynamic between the three Musketeers at their core is believable and full of chemistry; which Francois Civil's D'Artagnan quickly picks up on when he joins. It's light hearted and breezy fun to start with but the plot takes for a serious turn once it gets going, benefiting from avoiding the typical French pitfalls of a major blockbuster rendering it one of the most unFrench French films ever made - especially given its source material; it's quite a feat - and it's great to see something that hasn't been Americanised to bring it to screen.

It's down to Earth and shot with muted cinematography and the less flashy backdrop lends more to a tone that evokes something of a Ridley Scott movie - more grounded and refreshingly avoiding the humour that you find in big-picture movies that feels a little tongue in cheek for its own good. Those familiar with the tale will know what to expect and this benefits from very, very good source material - but as we've seen over the years that doesn't always translate well. I'm quite happy that the film managed to pull off the novel's rich array of themes: politics, romance, all feature here - those unfamiliar with the novel might look at Assassin's Creed for a source of inspiration. But what you get is a very entertaining film nonetheless - and I'll be back for Part Two.

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