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Messenger "The Messenger " on DVD

Arc de Triomphe

by Jim Bray

Director Luc Besson's follow up to his popular sci-fi flick "The Fifth Element" is an historical epic in the grand tradition.

"The Messenger, The Story of Joan of Arc," (though the credits of this "International version" merely say "Joan of Arc"), puts me in mind of "Braveheart," Mel Gibson's epic widescreen story of Scotsman William Wallace.

Milla Jovovich ("the Fifth Element" herself) is very good as the young Saint Joan-to be, a woman who believes she's a messenger from God and who leads a French army against the occupying English forces.

Despite her youth and inexperience, she either really does get her orders and strategies from God or is a quick study who's also very, very lucky, because she manages to engineer and lead a string of victories against the evil Limey army.

Joan shows up before the Dauphin who would be King (John Malkovich, in an excellent portrayal), bringing her heavenly message of hope and convincing him and those around him that she really is (or at least, may be) carrying the word of God with her.

Joan of Arc is a tragedy, of course, because as everyone knows her short life ended with her being burned at the stake. It's also an uplifting story, however, because it deals with strength of character and believing in something greater than oneself (whether it be God or the service of your country).

"Joan of Arc" is an epic film in every way. Its widescreen look, production design, costumes, and sets all bring to mind the big screen epics of old - movies like "Ben-Hur," "Dr. Zhivago," etc.

Besson and his team have assembled all the elements, including a talented cast and, according to the liner essay, a scrupulous attention to historical detail.

All the elements are indeed there, yet somehow "Joan of Arc" seems a bit flat.

Still, this is a grand film and should really be experienced on as big a TV screen as possible.

Besides Malkovich, the supporting cast includes Faye Dunaway and Dustin Hoffman, though the latter is scarcely more than a cameo role that could have been performed by any journeyman actor.

This isn't to put down Hoffman's performance, which is fine; it appears, however, that he's there to add some star power that wasn't really necessary.

The film is the "International Version," which means it has more footage than the US theatrical version.

The DVD's anamorphic video and its audio quality, both of which are digitally remastered, are top notch, and there's some nice use of the surround tracks (mostly for weather effects and the like, but that's fine). For extras, you get an interesting, albeit short, liner essay, an "HBO First Look" featurette on the film, and you can listen to the musical score (which is very good) on its own isolated audio track. There are also some talent files and the theatrical trailer.

The Messenger, the Story of Joan of Arc, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
158 minutes, Widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Milla Jovovitch, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman
Produced by Patrice Ledoux, Screenplay by Andrew Birkin and Luc Besson
Directed by Luc Besson


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Updated May 13, 2006