The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc Movie Review

Joan of Arc, arguably history's most famous peasant girl, get a monster-budget makeover in "The Messenger," an appropriately over-produced, but not necessarily overwrought, grandiose epic biography from the indulgent mind of director Luc Besson.

From Besson's trademark lack of subtlety (which helped make "The Fifth Element" such a opulent and enjoyable exercise in sci-fi excess) to the babe-casting of "Element" hottie Milla Jovovich in the lead, "The Messenger" is a feast of lavish filmmaking that turns France's 15th Century virgin warrior into a pious, ardent action figure who would fit just as readily into a video game as she would into a confessional.

The movie hinges on Jovovich's performance as the evangelical 17-year-old girl who, without military experience and depending entirely on her conviction that she was an instrument of God, lead a vast army into bloody, ferocious battles that drove the occupying English out of large parts of France in order to seat her Dauphin (John Malkovich) on the throne as King Charles VII.

Jovovich is nothing if not spirited in her robust portrayal of Joan's bursting, dogmatic resolve. She often speaks haltingly, taking shuddering breaths between each word. Her eyes bulge and her nostrils flare. Her mouth is agape. Sometimes she seems genuinely overcome by the power of her emotions. But other times she's just over-acting. Really over-acting. And as her credibility goes, so goes the film.

Like most epics -- especially religious epics -- when you're in the middle of it, "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" feels momentous. No expense has been spared to recreate the enormous, chaotic and violent Medieval battles, even though Besson's style of HandiCam photography feels more "Blair Witch" than "Braveheart." No expense was spared in fashioning period details (love them bowl haircuts, by the way) or in getting actors who could impart the import and duality of the supporting characters.

In addition to Malkovich, the cast includes Faye Dunaway as the rightful king's manipulative mother and Dustin Hoffman in the ponderous role of Joan's conscience -- a voice and vision that drums her head with doubts after she's abandon by France and tried, then burned at the stake by the English for heresy.

But on closer examination, Besson is lacking some important elements that bedevil the movie.

He does little to establish the basis of the respect Joan's army has for her early on. He also skips over how she established herself as an icon of the people. One moment she's 8 years old, hiding in a cabinet while her sister is raped and murdered by barbaric Brit invaders, and in the next scene she's aged a decade and is demanding an audience with the Dauphin, setting the entire court is abuzz with stories of her popularity and legend.

With the heavy-handed Christ symbolism Besson cloaks Joan in, this may have been deliberate -- in the Bible, Jesus' life has a similar inexplicable gap -- but it makes the film feel like it's missing a reel.

Such oversights aren't enough to derail what is a respectable, if not spectacular, film. But one can't help but wonder what could have been if "The Messenger" realized its full potential -- especially when you know that Besson, in his capacity as producer, jettisoned the original, more mature director, Karthryn Bigalow ("Strange Days," "Near Dark"), when she refused to cast Jovovich -- Besson's then girlfriend -- in the lead.

Comments

The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, Opened: Friday, November 12, 1999

Advertisement

More Milla Jovovich

Filming Of Next 'Resident Evil' Movie Postponed Due To Milla Jovovich's Pregnancy

The filming of the sixth instalment of the Resident Evil film franchise has been postponed due to Milla Jovovich’s pregnancy. The actress, who plays the...

Milla Jovovich Announces Second Pregnancy, Actress Expecting Second Child With Husband Paul Anderson

On Monday (Aug 18th), Milla Jovovich announced that she and her husband Paul Anderson, the producer of the 'Resident Evil' film franchise, are expecting their...

Evan Rachel Wood And Jamie Bell Split: Did Evan's Girl Crush Cause Rift?

Evan Rachel Wood and Jamie Bell have split after just 19 months of marriage, a spokesperson has confirmed to Us Weekly. The couple have a...

A Week In Movies: Dame Judi In Star Wars? Jack Ryan And Milla Jovovich Hit London, While Trailers Promise Vampires, Spies, Aliens And Hunks

The best rumour this week is that Judi Dench may play Mon Mothma in Star Wars Episode VII, which director JJ Abrams starts shooting in...

Advertisement

Razzies Nominations: So, Who Made The Worst Movie Of The Year?

It's that time of year again! The nominations for this year's Razzies have been announced, with Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - which made a...

Casually Dressed Milla Jovovich Talks On Phone During Breakfast Date With Friend

'The Fifth Element' star Milla Jovovich seemed to be enjoying a phone conversation during breakfast with a male friend in West Hollywood. Dressed in a...

Cult Sci-Fi Actress Milla Jovovich Ruling Us Box Office With 'Resident Evil 5'

Milla Jovovich films over the years have gained something of a cult following among science fiction fans, with the actress receiving a host of awards...

Resident Evil: Retribution Trailer

International pharmaceutical company The Umbrella Corporation's deadly T-virus - initially designed to dramatically alter living and recently dead organisms - continues its rapid spread throughout...

Advertisement