Le Dernier Combat Review
By Keith Breese
In the wake of 1982's post-apocalyptic powerhouse The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) theaters were glutted with cheap imitations. Anyone with access to a desert, some leather, beaten up cars and a few prop guns could make a post-apocalyptic film. Theatergoers thrilled by the prospects of seeing another Road Warrior were suckered into bottom-of-the-barrel rip-offs like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Warrior of the Lost World. But most missed Luc Besson's (La Femme Nikita) 1983 take on post-apocalyptic life.
Operatic, furious, and unrelenting, The Road Warrior is nearly devoid of humanity. It is a vision of a world where the only escape from maddening chaos is blinding speed - moving as fast as possible along a road with no ending, no future. And The Road Warrior captures that nihilistic bent wholly. Le Dernier Combat approaches the same chaos - civilization reduced to rubble, humanity profaned - and suggests that the only way out is order, not escape. Besson sees the same world but with a fanciful eye. (While Le Dernier Combat was begun in color, it is Besson's stunning use of B&W Cinemascope that lends the film its polished, big-budget look. The style is "cinema du look," vogue in the '80s relying heavily on aesthetics over depth, consumer fetishism and "window shopping.")
Le Dernier Combat begins with a man (writer Pierre Jolivet) building an ultra light plane and heading out into a vast wasteland to escape a band of murderous thugs. There he finds a desolate and crumbling city where he is attacked by a marauding brute (Jean Reno). Saved by a kindly doctor who lives amongst the ruins, the man soon learns that the brute is after something the doctor has: a woman locked away in a room beneath the debris.
Le Dernier Combat is most commonly remembered for the fact that there is only one line of dialogue in the entire film. According to the story, the atmosphere has changed so dramatically that human speech is no longer possible. But the audience isn't plunged into silence, Besson's long time collaborator Eric Serra delivers a jazzy electronic composition that slides and swirls around the film like an electric current. The effect can be startling, perhaps even aggravating, but it roots the picture. It gives it a sense of place that would otherwise be missing. The single line of dialogue in the film is so subtle, so stunningly presented, that it would be shame for me to give it away here.
Besson and Jolivet have said that film grew more out of an image of rubble seen in Paris than the post-apocalyptic movie cycle. What Besson delivers is not a roller-derby of car crashes and violence, sweat and oil, but a meditation of emptiness and decay. Besson presents the deserted city as a nostalgic treasure chest of 20th century living. There are few hidden dangers outside of the painful memories lurking in the odd bits of mechanical and consumerist ephemera. When a sudden storm shower delivers a rain of small fish, our hero dances about in the strange windfall agape at the uncanny nature of his world. There are a great many touches of humanity in Besson's wasteland and the film is all the more rewarding for it.
Aka The Last Battle.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 10th June 2011
Production compaines: Les Films du Loup
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Cast & Crew