a critiQal film review The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

Plot: In the early 1400's, France was run by England, with no recognized King of France. A young girl named Joan, living in France, claims to have had visions from God. She goes to the Dauphin of France, and pleads with him to give her an army to take back France from England, and help crown him King of France.

Reviewed
450 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 15s)
  • ...it's worth it to take a journey with Joan in this Besson directed film.

Luc Besson is a favorite director of mine, with such films under his belt as The Fifth Element (1997), La Femme Nikita (1991) and The Professional (1994). When I first heard about The Messenger, I was interested in seeing it mainly because he directed it.

At the time, though, I didn’t think Milla Jovovich was the right pick to play Joan of Arc, remembering her only as a girl with crazy hair, odd eating habits, and the ability to speak a foreign tongue from her role in The Fifth Element (1997). Having more recently seen her again in Resident Evil (2002), I started becoming more impressed with her, so figured now was the time to check out The Messenger.

There is a great ensemble cast assembled for The Messenger, and they all played their roles excellently. John Malkovitch was a bit of an odd choice for the Dauphin of France, but he ended up surprising me by slipping into the role with ease. Dustin Hoffman, a mysterious priest who visits Joan, also performed amazingly well.

But the main star of the film, Milla Jovovich, was the one that impressed me the most. You could see the strength of her convictions in the way she held herself, the way she spoke, everything. She must have studied enormously for this role, because she definitely seemed to have a very good grasp on her character.

The plot, taken from the story of Joan of Arc, was definitely gripping, especially knowing that The Messenger was based on something that really happened. The film doesn’t seem to choose sides, either, presenting doubts on if she did see visions, but also doubts on if she didn’t. Since most films usually choose a side, it was a refreshing change to find out it’s left up to the viewer whether she saw visions or not.

Having said all that, The Messenger is a journey that the audience takes with Joan, and there’s never a dull moment along the way. It pulls the audience in, and you won’t be able to pull yourself away until it’s over.

The battle scenes were very impressive, and the special effects department must have had to work overtime to re-create the carnage of war. There weren’t any obvious mistakes, and the carnage all looked quite realistic. About the only thing was the seeming focus of the camera on people getting different limbs cut off, be it an arm, a leg or even a head (twice). Ah well, nobody’s perfect.

All in all, Luc Besson has come through again with The Messenger. With it’s great cast of well-acted characters, it’s penchant to let the audience decide, and some truly well photographed battle scenes, it’s worth it to take the jouney with Joan.

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