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The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

Starring: Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich
Director: Luc Besson
Rated: R
RunTime: 145 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Pascal Greggory, Vincent Cassel, Tcheky Karyo, Richard Ridings, Desmond Harrington, Timothy West

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

Although the exact reasons for their estrangement have not been made public (aside from the catch-all "irreconcilable differences"), after seeing _The_Messenger_, I can only conclude that Milla Jovovich's woefully unconvincing performance as the title character was a prominent reason for director/soon-to-be-ex-husband Luc Besson's split with her. Joan of Arc, the legendary teen who guided the French army in their war against England after hearing a message from God, is the role of a lifetime for any young actress, calling on its portrayer to run the full gamut of emotions: spiritual euphoria, steely determination and strength, and ultimately great sadness. The role calls for great range, and Jovovich proves to not have any. She wears the same look throughout the entire film: eyes bulged, nostrils flaring, teeth gritted--the latter, that is, when she's not shrieking at the top of her lungs. Jovovich is at her best when asked to use her modeling skills to serve as a blank presence, as in her previous collaboration with Besson, _The_Fifth_Element_; and what is in my opinion her defining role--the slutty French exchange student who stole all of Kelly Bundy's boyfriends on an episode of _Married..._with_Children_. Required to do more as she is in _The_Messenger_, Jovovich is clearly at her worst.

So when Joan meets her end tied to a burning stake, there is no sense of tragic loss, only one of relief. But that's clearly Jovovich's fault and not that of Besson (though he must be blamed for casting with his crotch), who works overtime to give the film a larger-than-life epic quality that his heroine lacks. He actually succeeds in part, particularly in the visual department; his sometimes-surreal imagery is divinely haunting. He also gets some decent work from Jovovich's acting support; John Malkovich and Faye Dunaway are creepy and creepier, respectively, as the dauphin of France and his scheming mother-in-law. However, Besson makes other questionable choices, such as bringing Joan's conscience to life in the final act in the form of... Dustin Hoffman. His distracting presence undercuts any dramatic momentum and tension Besson could ever hope to build, with or without Jovovich in the lead.

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