En garde! Pathe launches the all-star, no expense-spared first part of its lavish epic

The Three Musketeers

Source: Pathe

‘The Three Musketeers’

Dir: Martin Bourboulon. France. 2023. 121mins.

A rollicking historical romp with nary a dull moment, The Three Musketeers -  D’Artagnan (Les Trois Mousquetaires — D’Artagnan) offers all the sprightly action, jaunty repartee and sumptuous settings a contemporary movie-goer could possibly want. Men have muskets and swords, and women have bodice-area storage and feminine wiles and definitely know how to wield them in this story of young Charles D’Artagnan of Gascony who arrives in Paris in 1627 to become a musketeer and serve King and country. Intelligently written, energetically acted and solidly entertaining, the first instalment of Martin Bourboulon’s (Eiffel) lavish venture (Part II, Milady, shot simultaneously, is due out in December) should be all for one and one for all at the box office. At the time of writing, the film has been sold widely but major English-language territories remain available.

Set always at full speed ahead, this film is unabashedly proud to make the most of the bigscreen for cinema audiences

There have been over 40 previous screen versions of Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel, with D’Artagnan played by supple physical performers from Douglas Fairbanks to Gene Kelly to Jean-Paul Belmondo. Here, aspiring musketeer D’Artagnan is portrayed by lean and indefatigable François Civil, Athos by Vincent Cassel, Portos by Pio Marmai and Aramis by Roman Duris. Throw in Louis Garrel as King Louis XIII, Vicky Krieps as his wife, Anne of Austria, and Eva Green as slinky and resourceful villainess Milady de Winter and it’s safe to say there’s always somebody talented on screen saying or doing something that propels the story forward.

When the film opens, France has been at peace for a while under King Louis XIII. His brother is soon to be married, but the King’s advisors think they should be readying for war rather than a sumptuous wedding. Cardinal Richelieu (Eric Ruf) is a trusted advisor, but maybe he shouldn’t be. “A King doesn’t have friends — he has subjects and enemies,” he says. Loyal to the King of England, the Protestants in their stronghold of La Rochelle show strong signs of plotting to go after Catholics. 

This French Queen, though, has secretly taken up with the Duke of Buckingham (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd). Their ultra-risky assignations involve small boats and waiting horses on both sides of the English Channel. The Queen gives Buckingham a token of her love and then urgently needs to get it back. Feel free to move to the edge of your seat.

Motivations — solving a murder, rescuing a wrongly convicted comrade-at-arms, keeping a potentially explosive royal secret, infiltrating a religious order  —  are anchored in the real world and the stakes are always high. The courtly flirtation between D’Artagnan and the Queen’s very sharp, self-assured confidante Constance (Lyna Khoudri) is sweet yet hints at real carnal underpinnings. Men and women alike tend to live as if each day may be their last. Nobody ever dithers. Action — or plotting that will lead to action — is the preferred mode. Every body and brain is set to full speed ahead.  And yet this isn’t exhausting to watch, just fun.

This isn’t great filmmaking, but it is smart filmmaking, unabashedly proud to make the most of the bigscreen for cinema audiences. No prior version has had so many technical advances at its disposal. There are long immersive tracking shots with layers of action unspooling within a you-are-there visual framework. Impressive settings are lit, sometimes  by candlelight, to their full advantage.

The offhanded humor is nicely established when, on his very first day in Paris, D’Artagnan manages to offend three different men and accept three different duels that very afternoon. Developments are sometimes very swift, although not hard to follow. Just the night before arriving in the capital, D’Artagnan was shot and buried, only to emerge, coughing, from a shallow grave. There’s an explanation and like several twists along the way, it’s a clever one.

Via his bravery and gung-ho skill, D’Artagnan goes from cadet to full-fledged musketeer in record time. At the cliffhanger end of Part I, he suffers a major setback that will leave most viewers genuinely eager to see what happens next. Milady seems to have met an unpleasant demise in Part I but since Part II is named for her, it’s a safe bet that she survived. Any excuse to resuscitate Eva Green is worth encouraging.

Production companies: Chapter 2, Pathé Films 

International sales:  Pathé Films

Producers: Dimitri Rassam, Ardavan Safaee 

Screenplay:  Matthieu Delaporte, Alexandre de La Patelliére, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas

Cinematography: Nicolas Bolduc

Production design: Stéphane Taillasson 

Editing: Célia Lafitedupont 

Music: Guillaume Roussel 

Main cast: François Civil, Vincent Cassel, Romain Duris, Pio Marmai, Eva Green, Louis Garrel, Vicky Krieps, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Lyna Khoudri, Eric Ruf, Marc Barbé