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(Check out Chris Reed’s movie review of The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan. The film hits US theaters and Digital/On-Demand on December 8th. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

French author Alexandre Dumas published The Three Musketeers in 1844, and ever since then his novel of political intrigue and swashbuckling derring-do has ensconced itself in global popular culture. Set in the time of France’s King Louis XIII (who ruled 1610-1643), the book follows the titular trio—Aramis, Athos, and Porthos—as they work hand-in-hand with the younger d’Artagnan to safeguard the royal interests against the machinations of the duplicitous advisor Cardinal Richelieu (who in real life was most likely not such a villain). Filled with adventure, The Three Musketeers remains a fun read, even today.

There has been no shortage of cinematic adaptations of the tale, but now comes a new one, from French director Martin Bourboulon (Eiffel), entitled The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan (the upcoming “Part II” will focus more on antagonist Milady). And while the screenwriters take ample liberties with the source text, the basic shape of the narrative remains familiar. The plot follows the efforts of our heroes to protect their sovereign (Louis Garrel, Two Friends) from those who would mislead him. He may not necessarily deserve such loyalty, but hey, he’s the king. Richelieu (Eric Ruf, My Dog Stupid) and his allies hope to persuade Louis to reignite the religious wars of the previous century, which pitted Catholics against Protestants. He demurs, so they need to change his mind. At the center of the dastardly cardinal’s plot is a plan to discredit the queen, Anne d’Autriche (Vicky Krieps, The Young Karl Marx).

The ambitious d’Artagnan (François Civil, Who You Think I Am) arrives in Paris in the hopes of joining the king’s guard (aka “the Musketeers”), but before he gets more than a piece of his foot in the door he manages to insult not one, not two, but three of said Musketeers, all of whom invite him to duel (an illegal activity) later that day. This is our introduction to Aramis (Romain Duris, Final Cut), Athos (Vincent Cassel, The Emperor of Paris), and Porthos (Pio Marmaï, The Trouble with You). But though they set out to stab d’Artagnan through the heart, they quickly come to love him his for his flashy bravery.

Their friendship is soon put to the test when Athos is framed for the murder of an unknown woman. Given that her body was found next to his after a night of drunken revelry, and that he remembers little of surrounding events, Athos’ fate is more or less sealed. But who would frame him, and why? That’s what Aramis, Porthos, and d’Artagnan try to discover, aided by the queen’s confidante, Constance Bonacieux (Lyna Khoudri, Gagarine). Could it be the mysterious Milady (Eva Green, Proxima) who is behind the frame-up, doing Richelieu’s bidding? Perhaps. Let the games begin!

Much of what transpires borders on the ridiculous, but isn’t that what we sign up for with such films? Everyone appears to be having far too much fun, ostensible high stakes notwithstanding. Swords flash, men grunt, women gasp (and sometimes vice versa), and occasionally blood doth flow. It’s not great art, but it’s pretty engaging entertainment, even if it ends with a “to be continued” advertising the sequel. It helps that the cast is excellent, the production design exquisite, and the camera appropriately frenetic. These musketeers have panache, and I am all here for it.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

Samuel Goldwyn Films; Martin Bourboulon; The Three Musketeers – Part I: D’Artagnan  movie review

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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