First post for Moviewins?! :D
On with the movie, it opens much like the book. Madame the guillotine taking heads from the nobility. As a young noble family are about to meet their doom they are put into two coffins by “French soldiers”. They realize that these “soldiers” are actually part of a crew or gang under the command of The Scarlet Pimpernel. They are saved from the guillotine and are taken to England. But the Scarlet Pimpernel, himself, stays in France.
Anthony Andrews plays our protagonist Sir Percy Blakeney/The Scarlet Pimpernel. If you don’t look for it you’ll be surprised by the disguises he uses to rescue people. It is so much fun watching it for the first time (second, third... whatever. I love watching his disguises). He always reveals himself, if not to who he is rescuing he does to the audience that he is the person in disguise. Sir Percy Blakeney is an English aristocrat who acts like a fool. Percy does a great job of pretending that he only cares about clothes, good looks, what other people think that it’s no wonder that few people suspect him of being The Scarlet Pimpernel. While in France he meets a young French actress who he falls in love with.
Jane Seymour plays Marguerite St. Just (later to be Blakeney) a famous French actress. Although I’m not entirely thrilled with her performance and prefer Elizabeth McGovern’s way of playing her (she played her in the HORRIBLE TV series called The Scarlet Pimpernel… I’m not going to go into it. I did not like the TV series but I adored McGovern's portrayal of Lady Blakeney) Jane Seymour is alright. She doesn’t know who Percy really is and has her own demons to struggle with. She is transfixed by Percy because, as an actress, she realizes that he’s acting the fool. Although, at times, he seems to reveal who he truly is she knows he’s hiding a secret. She loves and eventually marries (roughly 1/3 of the way into the movie) Percy but life for her doesn’t go well. She spurns her former French lover for an English aristocrat and her former French lover gets his revenge.
Who is her former French Lover? Why it’s Paul Chauvelin played by Ian McKellen. McKellen gives a wonderful performance and he really does seem to hate Percy and love/hate Marguerite. You can tell that he still cares for her, but at the same time feels that she’s betrayed not only him but her people. I won’t give away how he puts a wedge in between the married Percy and Marguerite but it creates havoc on their relationship.
My favorite scenes in the movie are with Percy and Chauvelin (that’s what they usually call Paul). I love the chemistry between the two and they play off of each other well. This isn’t just some love story with random noble rescues. It’s more an adventure with a noble English man who happens to fall in love with a French woman. A French woman who’s Ex-whatever is the chief agent of the Committee of Public Safety. In other words, he’s the man who is looking to find out the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel and also killing those pesky French aristocrats. This movie has more in it. It is 142 minutes… yes a long movie, but well worth the watch and very enjoyable every step of the way. This is a work of fiction so expect there to be historical inaccuracies.
Buy/rent this movie. I know it's available on DVD now. They speak in American accents (so it's easy to understand them) and there are no subtitles, at least the DVD I have doesn't have subtitles. The book is fun to read too. I'm not going to make movie/book comparisons. They have their similarities and their differences. I think that the characters in the book are the same as they are in the movie. Very good job I believe.
TL;DR: If you like men dressing up and looking like other people and rescuing citizens about to be killed. Or if you like spurned lovers attempting to get their revenge. Or if you want to see McKellen looking pissed off as he gets duped over and over. Or if you want to see daring and dangerous rescues of French nobility during the Reign of Terror. Then rent/buy this movie! It is very worth the watch.