In spite of some mediocre reviews, I went to The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc because Luc Besson directed it. Besson is the man behind The Fifth Element, The Professional, and a slew of slick, solid French movies, including La Femme Nikita.
Like Besson’s previous work, The Messenger is a grand, solid, hard-hitting action movie. It’s radically different from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc in that it’s as interested in Jeanne the soldier as it is in Jeanne the martyr. It’s as interested in being an action movie as Dreyer’s was in being emotional.
Did You Notice?
Milla Jovovich, Besson’s former wife and star of his The Fifth Element, plays the hero Jeanne. Jovovich is too old for the role, which calls for someone who’s 19 and younger. She has the voice, the inexperience and the naivete down pat, but she lacks the face to be a convincing 19-year old.
As expected, Besson’s film has high production values — some really good sets and costumes, expansive armies of extras, and reasonably convincing special effects (some of the long shots at the site of battle are probably computer-generated). It also has a brisk, steady pace as it marches through the film’s three acts — childhood, soldiering, and judgment.
I still like Besson’s work, and this film clearly fits into his canon, but I have to say it didn’t move or inspire me. I enjoyed the scenery, but I’ll probably not come back for another visit.