Luc Besson, possibly best known to American audiences for "The Fifth Element",
has an extraordinary visual imagination. While most audience members didn't
seem to care for the plot of his last film, it can hardly be denied that "The
Fifth Element" looked absolutely gorgeous. Here in "The Messenger" we get more
of these amazing visuals, but the story seems to be struggling to keep up.
Most know the story of Joan of Arc, but I will attempt a brief summary here.
Joan (Milla Jovovich) is a young French girl who witnessed horrors when her
village was destroyed by the invading English. Since then she has believed
herself a messenger of god, capable of freeing France from the English. The
interesting thing is, the people of France believe in her. In order to drive
the English out, she requires an army. She begs the dauphin, Charles VII (John
Malkovich) for one. At the head of this force, she begins an assult upon the
English held city of Rheims. Successful, the French drive the English out and
begin talks for peace. As Joan is unwilling to talk, Charles turns her over to
the English to stand trial.
This film can be divided easily into three parts. The first, and possibly
worst, involves Joan as a young girl discovering who she is (or believes she
is, depending on your point of view). During this, we are treated to grotesque
scenes such as her sister being murdered and then raped (note the order of
these events) by English troops. This third of the film is either quite dull or
disgusting at all times. It only begins to pick up the pace once John Malkovich
appears on screen. Even with a character as underwritten as that of King
Charles, Malkovich is a delight to watch.
The second segment of the movie is by far the most interesting, featuring
Joan's retaking of Rheims. It should be noted here, that Milla Jovovich turns
in a fine performance as a woman who appears insane at times and enlightened at
others.Perhaps what makes this portion of the film so interesting is the
presence of several supporting characters in Joan's army. In particular,
Richard Ridings (perhaps best known for a brief role in Highlander: The Series)
is hilarious as her oafish protector, La Hire. The battle sequences themselves
are intriguingly shot in a quick cutting fashion which conveys the chaos of the
battles, while still showing how the supporting characters fare.
The final sequence, while not nearly as interesting as the second is still
rather interesting, particularly due to the inclusion of Dustin Hoffman as
Joan's conscience. This segment focuses upon Charles's betrayl of Joan to the
English, and her trial at the hands of the English church. Joan's conscience
follows her about as she restlessly paces her cell, and makes everyone question
whether she truly is who she claims to be, or merely a lunatic. Some of these
scenes are truly hilarious, particularly one in which Hoffman offers possible
reasons for why Joan would find a sword lying in a field. Despite this, the
trial itself is quite dull, particularly since we all know how it is going to
Perhaps the largest problem with this film, is the excessively lengthy runtime
of 140 minutes. The film simply runs out of steam after 100, and the first 45
or so seem utterly wasted. I can't quite recommend "The Messenger" in theatres,
but I would recommend you attempt to catch it on video if only for the amazing
visuals and the performances by Jovovich, Malkovich and Hoffman. I give "The
Messenger" three stars.
Feel free to E-mail with comments at: JABII@aol.com
* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now.
* * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one.
* * * - Okay movie, hits and misses.
* * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do.
* - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.
Copyright © 2000 John Beachem