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Joan Of Arc: The Messenger (1999)
Director: Luc Besson

review by Tony Lee

A pretty laboured historical war epic (originally titled: The Messenger: The Story of Joan Of Arc), Luc Besson's movie boasts a remarkable supporting cast, top-notch production values, some lavish visuals and impressively staged battle scenes yet - unfortunately - it relies too heavily on these elements. Very much to the fore is ex-model Milla Jovovich, who was good in Besson's previous The Fifth Element, but is simply not up to the challenges of the material (written by Besson and Andrew Birkin) and so this version of the often filmed, theologically inclined saga fails to realise its potential.
   Faye Dunaway is on refined form here as one of the French royals, and Dustin Hoffman's gravely voiced turn as the heroine's conscience is highly engaging, but John Malkovich's performance as King Charles is lacklustre and feeble, without a shred of the depth and commitment that we might reasonably expect from a star of his calibre. On the side of the church in all this is Timothy West, who makes a lasting impact on the movie from his first scene - though, as with almost everyone that Joan (or 'Jeanne', as the pedantic script has it) trusts, even he betrays her in the end.
   It is true that Jovovich throws herself into the part with dedication and gusto. There are a number of effectively dramatic scenes - like when she leads a largely disbelieving army during the siege of Orleans, or plays opposite Hoffman in more contemplative mood, but I really don't think that Jovovich's star quality extends to such passionate teenage heroism as is obviously required for the character of God's messenger, and so it's nigh impossible to accept her in the title role.
   Was Joan an instrument of divinity or a brain-muddled loony? Besson doesn't fully address this issue, although we are granted limited access to the inside of the messenger's head, even if we don't get to hear the supposed message from above directly.
Joan of Arc
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