The Three Musketeers-Part 1:D’Artagnan (Samuel Goldwyn Films, NR)

Some stories never go out of style. Leading the way in that department may well be Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 adventure novel The Three Musketeers, which has spawned dozens of film adaptations, from an obscure 1903 French short to the 2023 two-parter directed by Martin Bourboulon, of which The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan is, you guessed it the first half. Soon to follow is the second part, The Three Musketeers: Milady (the two films were shot back-to-back in 2021 and 2022).

The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan is a real old-fashioned swashbuckler, full of sword fights, handsome men and pretty ladies, improbably accurate gunplay (with smoothbore weapons!), stunning locations, candlelit interiors, wild stunts, a cast of thousands outfitted in amazing costumes, and a thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack. If you’re starting to think “that sounds a lot like Oscar bait,” banish that thought from your head, because this film is so well done, and packs so many surprises into a well-known story, that it definitely doesn’t deserve that label.

After an opening sequence so dimly lit you may think you’re watching the infamous “dark episode” from Game of Thrones, Bourboulon thankfully moves into daylight, making it much easier to follow the adventures of our hero D’Artagnan (François Civil), the young eager beaver from Gascony. He has come to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers, hoping to cash in on his father’s friendship with the Captain of the Guards, but is only offered is a place in the cadet corps. Never mind, our hero finds another way to get ahead: he manages to offend each of the titular musketeers—Athos (Vincent Cassel), Portos (Pio Marmaï) and Aramis (Romain Duris)—a matter which can only be settled by fighting each separately in a duel. Except dueling is against the law, so soon the four of them are fighting the guards who have come to make them stop, a bonding experience which makes them the best of friends, because that’s how things work in Boy’s Own Adventure stories.

The Three Musketeers does not suffer from a shortage of subplots. Cardinal Richlieu (Eric Ruf) and the big-C Church are trying to undermine the French monarchy. D’Artagnan falls in love with Constance Bonacieux (Lyna Khoudri), who works for Queen Anne of Austria (Vicky Krieps). Queen Anne (who was actually Spanish) is married to King Louis XIII but is cheating on him with the Duke of Buckingham (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). Athos is framed for murder (he awakes to find the proverbial dead girl in his bed). And what is up with that mysterious lady in black (Eva Green)?

One reason The Three Musketeers is so enjoyable is that everyone involved understands what kind of a movie they are in. Accepting the conventions, they all work together to create a modern version of the old-school swashbucklers that have been pleasing audiences since at least the days of Douglas Fairbanks. If you don’t know the story already, it can be a bit confusing, but everything looks so good and there’s so many things happening that you can enjoy it without completely understanding it. Added benefit: you get an armchair tour of France courtesy of Nicolas Bolduc’s cinematography, with locations including the Louvre, Troyes, the citadel of Saint-Malo, and the Fontainebleau and Chantilly castles. Also lots of warmly-glowing candlelit interiors, and there’s nothing I like more than well-shot scenes apparently illuminated only by candles.

The main criticism I have of The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan, apart from the clunky title (which rivals High School Musical: The Musical: the Series in that regard) is that it ends on a cliffhanger so you’ll need to buy a ticket to part 2 to see how it all comes out. Of course, that’s a trick comic-book movies have been using for years, and they stole it from the melodramatic one-reelers serial, so this aspects of The Three Musketeers is simply honoring a fine old cinematic tradition.

One tip: don’t leave until the credit sequence is complete, because there’s a bonus scene in there you won’t want to miss.| Sarah Boslaugh

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