The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The cruel King Louis XIV of France has a secret twin brother whom he keeps imprisoned. Can the twin be substituted for the real king?

  • Paris is starving, but the King of France is more interested in money and bedding women. When a young soldier dies for the sake of a shag, Aramis, Athos and Porthos band together with a plan to replace the king. Unknown to many, there is a 2nd king, a twin, hidden at birth, then imprisoned for 6 years behind an iron mask. All that remains now is D'Artagnan, will he stand against his long time friends, or do what is best for his country?

  • Years have passed since the Three Musketeers, Aramis (Jeremy Irons), Athos (John Malkovich), and Porthos (Gerard Depardieu) fought together with their friend D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne). The arrogant, tyrannical King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio) desires the beautiful Christine (Judith Godreche), so he orders her suitor Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard), the son of Athos, off to face death at the front. He also sends Aramis to kill the leader of a Jesuit rebellion. Louis is unaware that his loyal protector and informant, D'Artagnan, is the secret lover of his mother, Queen Anne (Anne Parillaud). Louis' younger twin brother, Philippe (also DiCaprio) is the man in the iron mask, imprisoned for the past six years. Arthos and Porthos plan to free Philippe, abduct Louis and replace him by putting Philippe on the throne. French location scenes include the Chateau Fontainbleau.

  • In 1638 Queen Anne of France gives Birth to a boy, who will inherit the throne one day. But, only known to few, there is a twin brother born minutes later. 22 years later, King Louis XIV rules the country of France, but due to his lifestyle and the costs of war, people are forced to suffer hunger and poverty. Of the Musketeers, who had served his father Louis XIII faithfully, only one is still on the king's side: D'Artagnan, the Capitain of the king's guards. His three companions Aramis, Athos and Porthos have retired into civil life long ago. One day on a royal party, the young and unliked king gets a crush on Christine. This young lady is the fiancé of soldier Raoul, the son of Athos. Without further ado, the king has Raoul recruited and sent to war, so that he himself can take care of her. Soon Raoul dies in combat and the king has him out of the way. But Athos, Aramis and Porthos think of a plan to take revenge on the king. Aramis points out that there is a man in an iron mask in a very secure prison, and that this man's existance can solve all present problems. So they free the king's hidden twin brother, and tell him who he is, as he of course feels free of guilt and has no idea whatsoever why he was imprisoned for 6 years with this mask forged around his head. The plan now is to replace the evil king with his brother at a masquerade party held soon. Only D'Artagnan still is guarding the king and so he has to turn against his old friends...

  • As King Louis XIV prepares to rule France, he proves to be a cruel ruler. When he becomes responsible for sending a soldier, Rauol, to his death so he can have his love, Christine, Raoul's retired musketeer father and two other retirees band together to overthrow the king. Captain D'Artagnan does not agree with his king but is loyal to him and refuses to be a part of the musketeers' plan. However, they learn that Louis has a secret good twin brother named Phillipe, who has been imprisoned in the castle and his face hidden behind an iron mask. Could Phillipe be a solution and safe haven to the people of France?

  • 1662. Paris starves while youthful Louis XIV debauches young women and wastes the treasury on war. The captain of his guard, D'Artagnan, protects him from conspirators. Louis casts his eye on penniless Christine, the sweetheart of Raoul, a soldier and only son of retired musketeer, Athos. To have Christine, Louis sends Raoul to harm's way on the front. To kill the leader of the conspirators, the king calls in ex-musketeer Aramis, now a priest, accompanied by the Falstaffian Porthos. The queen mother, in widow's weeds, grieves in her chapel, and in the Bastille rots a solitary prisoner, face locked in an iron mask. Perfidy, silence, loyalty, rage, and guilt are set to collide.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • France is under the reign of the militaristic King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is bankrupting the country with his unpopular wars. When starving peasants in Paris start rioting for food, he responds by ordering his chief adviser Pierre to send them rotten food - although he later orders Pierre executed for this and all rioters killed. Meanwhile, the king continues to wallow in hedonistic luxury and seduce a parade of women. The legendary Three Musketeers have retired from their posts: Aramis (Jeremy Irons) is now a priest of the Jesuits; Porthos (Gérard Depardieu) is a frequent visitor to Parisian brothels; Athos (John Malkovich) has a son named Raoul (Peter Sarsgaard) who has just returned from the war and signifies his application to join the musketeers, like his father who once served with pride and honor. Meanwhile, Athos gives Raoul his wife's ring, saying that the only lady worthy to wear it is the one that Raoul loves. The lucky girl he loves is Christine Bellefort (Judith Godrèche) whom he intends to propose for marriage. At a festival, the two lovers are greeted by an older D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne), who is still in the service of the King as Captain of the Musketeers, striving to retain the esprit de corps of the old days. D'Artagnan wishes Raoul and Christine luck, but just before Raoul can propose, the king's eyes fall on Christine. He arranges for Raoul to be returned to combat, where he is killed by the Dutch cannons while leading ground troops in an attack en-masse. The news of his son's death reaches Athos, who, in a fit of rage, proceeds to the king's palace to seek vengeance. He injures two musketeers before D'Artagnan overpowers him on the Palace grounds. This puts a severe strain on Athos's friendship with D'Artagnan, who he now sees as a traitor for siding with his son's killer.

    In the wake of Raoul's death, Louis invites Christine to the palace where she sleeps with him, grateful for the medical assistance his doctors have given to her mother and sister. When Louis orders Aramis to find and execute the secret leader of the Jesuit order, Aramis sets in motion a plot to overthrow the king with the help of his old comrades, for this secret leader is none other than Aramis himself. Only Athos and Porthos agree to the plan; D'Artagnan refuses to betray his oath of honor and allegiance to the king. The three former Musketeers sneak into an island prison and arrange the escape of a mysterious prisoner: a man in an iron mask. They replace him with a corpse in a matching iron mask and, pretending it is plague ridden, burn it so the guards will not know the face behind the iron mask. They take the young man to a safe house in the countryside and unmask him: he is Philippe (Leonardo DiCaprio), the identical twin of King Louis. While he is identical to his brother, Philippe is compassionate and gentle. Aramis reveals that Philippe was sent away by his father, King Louis XIII, to save France from dynastic warfare. Later, when Louis discovered Philippe's existence, he was too superstitious to have his own brother murdered; so instead, he devised a way to keep him hidden: the iron mask. Aramis, at time still serving as a musketeer and clad in black uniform, the only thing Philippe remembers, was the one who took him away to prison, an act which has haunted him ever since.

    Meanwhile, King Louis succeeds in seducing Christine completely, claiming that he ordered Raoul to be placed far from the battlefront. Christine receives a letter from Raoul, predicting his death and saying that he forgives her for becoming the king's mistress. Whilst in bed with Louis, Christine admits that she still loves Raoul and that she is not in love with him. Enraged, Louis forsakes Christine.

    Athos, Porthos, and Aramis teach Philippe how to act like royalty, so he may replace Louis as king. Together they abduct Louis during a fancy dancing ball. Before his absence is revealed, Philippe takes his place. However, Philippe's good nature gives him away when he helps one of the dancing ladies up from the floor after she falls over and spares Christine's life when she storms in and openly accuses him of murdering Raoul (having learned this from a letter sent by Louis' General), promising to make amends for wronging her. D'Artagnan realizes something is amiss, orders all palace musketeers to be on full alert, and personally escorts Philippe to the underground dock. They arrive just as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis are about to sail for the Bastille with Louis. The men collectively decide to make a trade for the brothers' lives; however, Philippe is re-captured in the ensuing chaos of their escape.

    Afterwards, D'Artagnan is stunned to learn that Philippe is Louis' brother and pleads with Louis to spare his life, joined by the twins' mother, who Louis is furious and upset to see had known about the plot. Louis at first refuses, but Philippe unexpectedly speaks up and says that he is more terrified of the iron mask than death itself, begging to be executed rather than sent back to prison. Louis, hardened in his anger against all three of them, orders him placed in the Bastille and once again in the mask. In the aftermath, Christine is found to have hanged herself from her bedroom window.

    Athos, Porthos, and Aramis brush off their old musketeer uniforms, becoming The Three Musketeers again and, with D'Artagnan's help, break into the Bastille prison and escape with Philippe. Louis, however, has prepared an ambush. Fortunately, the narrowness of the corridor and the guards' respect for D'Artagnan, their captain, prevents them from overwhelming the four Musketeers with their numbers, although the five men eventually end up trapped against a barred door at the end of the corridor with no way out. Determined to save his friends, Philippe offers to give himself up in exchange for their lives. D'Artagnan refuses, revealing to everyone's astonishment, that he is actually the twins' father, having had an affair with Queen Anne, and that it was out of fatherly devotion that he served Louis. D'Artagnan adds that he feels the pride as a father for the first time upon learning that Philippe is also his son.

    The four Musketeers and Philippe make a final charge at Louis' front line. Their "magnificent valor" stuns the soldiers into immobility, angering Louis and forcing him to repeatedly shout orders to fire. He lays his hands on one of the soldiers' muskets and it goes off, setting off the rest, with many of the men shutting their eyes or looking away out of reluctance. The smoke clears to reveal the five men still standing; all the shots, barring a few flesh wounds, missed.

    An enraged Louis lunges toward Philippe and tries to stab him. D'Artagnan jumps between them and is fatally wounded when Louis stabs him in the back. Philippe knocks Louis down and begins to strangle him, but D'Artagnan, with his dying breaths, reminds Philippe that Louis is his brother. Philippe's mask is removed so that D'Artagnan can see his face one last time. Saying the musketeer call, D'Artagnan dies as Philippe comments that D'Artagnan was the one wearing the mask all along. Closing his eyes, Philippe embraces his father one time only as he starts to mourn over his death. D'Artagnan's right-hand man, Lieutenant Andre, is furious at Louis for killing D'Artagnan and upon finding out Philippe was brother to Louis and of royal blood, orders his men to close the door and swears them to secrecy. By the time another battalion breaks in, the three Musketeers and Lieutenant Andre have made Louis and Philippe swap clothes and locked Louis in the iron mask. Philippe introduces Athos, Porthos, and Aramis as his royal council and truest friends. Posing as the king, Philippe orders the guards to take Louis and lock him away. The Musketeers give their respect and kneel before Philippe, honoring him as their true King.

    Philippe, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and Queen Anne attend D'Artagnan's funeral, in which The Three Musketeers are finally redeemed. After the funeral, Philippe asks Athos to love him like a son and Athos accepts, kissing Philippe's hand. Afterwards, The Three Musketeers walk away through the long line of proud saluting musketeers under the helm of Lieutenant Andre as new captain, while the elite group chants their battle cry "One for All, All for One". Louis (whom Philippe granted royal pardon being his brother) now lives in the country, where he is often visited by his mother. Thereafter, France was reformed under Philippe (under the alias of Louis XIV) who gave his people food, prosperity, and peace. He is remembered as the greatest ruler in the history of his nation.

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