The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

The latest retelling of the story of Joan of Arc comes from French director Luc Besson, in the appropriately titled The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. Besson's retelling, complete with an all star cast of Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Dustin Hoffmanovich, and Faye Dunawayovich, attempts to shed light on Joan as a person. For the few people who do not know, the historical Joan of Arc is a Catholic martyr. At the age of nineteen, she led French troops in reclaiming Orleans from the English (about 1430). She was later captured and declared a witch, sentenced to death by burning at the stake. A couple years later, she was found innocent, and in 1920, the Catholic Church canonized her. The Messenger begins with Joan as a young girl, beset by visions from God. The visions cause her to become extremely devout, continually desiring to give confession, and trying to devote her life to God.

As a teenager, Joan's (Jovovich, He Got Game, The Fifth Element) visions tell her that she is going to save France from the forces of the English. She tells this to the skeptical Dauphin Charles (Malkovich, Being John Malkovich, The Man in the Iron Mask) and his mother in law, Yolande D'Aragon (Dunaway, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bonnie and Clyde). A large portion of the movie then focuses on Joan and some of her battles. Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional), pulling a Steven Speilberg, used a hand held camera to get up close shots of the many battle scenes. Besson has a very good eye for visual effects, and the battles are gory and frequent, but oddly distant. There isn't much feeling or purpose behind the violence. When Joan is captured, her conscience (Hoffman, Wag the Dog, Sphere) appears to question her motives. Were her visions true, or were they merely her imagination? If God is truly on her side, why is she sitting in jail, and why is England still in France?

While trying to find Joan's essence, Besson loses something. Jovovich appears in a daze in most of the movie because of her visions. She is frequently confused, and definitely frustrated by the reluctance of the leaders of the French military to assist her. Jovovich (singer, actress, and model - hot damn!) does give a good performance, it is just hindered by the script. The conversations between Hoffman and Jovovich are the best part of the film, but they come far too late, and are far too short. In them, Joan questions herself and her motives. She really analyzes why she did what she did, before realizing why she failed. The other performances are fine, and too small to make any difference. One disorienting aspect of the film is the lack of any noticeable accent by the four principals, especially since everyone else is clearly French or English. By the end of the film, Joan of Arc is still an enigma. Besson sheds little light on who she truly was, but does give some interesting insight on her motives.

Haro Rates It: Okay
2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated R for strong graphic battles, language, and a rape.

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