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Messenger: The Story Of... (1999)
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Review Date: November 16, 1999
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson and Andrew Birkin
Producers: Patrice Ledoux
Actors:
Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc
John Malkovich as Charles VII
Plot:
Young, religious, carefree French girl turns into a confident, focused young adult who feels the hand of God leading her into battle with the English in the early 1400s. After confronting the soon-to-be King of France with her visions from above, he allows her to fight his war and reap the rewards thereof. Soon thereafter, Joan is left to waddle with the voices inside her head whose divinity suddenly come into question.
Critique:
Stylish, overlong, uneven, ambitious battle drama features some excellent fight sequences, good performances by all involved (except Dustin Hoffman as Dustin Hoffman in a robe) and a lagging third act which essentially turns the story of a heroine fighting the battle of the good, into a psychological drama about whether or not Joan was just cooky! This film starts off slow with Besson spending too much time on Joan's revelations, while drowning us with his usual panache for the stylish shots. Unlike others, I personally didn't mind the modernization of this tale and actually started enjoying myself once Joan led her willing army into battle. I was however torn between how I should feel about Joan as Besson presents her to us as a strong-minded, confident, fighter woman while allowing his lead actress to portray her as a constantly teary-eyed, confused, schitzo with a supposed plan. I wanted to feel for her, but eventually, I just lost any compassion for her within all the confusion of her character.

Mrs. JoBlo disagreed with me and wholeheartedly enjoyed this film. She thought the character of Joan was shown in all her strengths and weaknesses, lending a stronger credibility to her persona. I did not see that. I wished that Besson would have stuck to one story line in this picture, instead of forcing us to withstand his own interpretation of what might've happened, in that, Joan might just have been a psychologically disturbed woman with a penchant for the grandiose. The film basically just ran too long for me with the last act dragging the whole show to a standstill. Were they just voices in her head? Will they allow her to confess her sins? Whatever. Seemed like another movie altogether. I think I'm being harder on this picture because I truly was enjoying its middle half with a female heroine strong enough in her will to kick any Hollywood bullcrap action star in the balls and walk away with her head up high. Jovovich also played her part very well, considering the struggles within herself that Besson's script needed her to portray. I personally would rather not have seen so much of her schitzo side, which I believed to take away from the film's momentum, and would have cut about thirty minutes from its length, but all in all, some cool battle scenes, a hip but confusing lead character, great direction and just too much esoteric psycho-babbling.

Some may like it for its battles and dislike its conscience-grinding moments, others may like its head games and dislike its fight scenes. If you're lucky, you'll like them both, but if you're not lucky, well...this movie just ain't for you.
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian
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