Jul 7, 2024

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

Director: Luc Besson
Producer: Patrice Ledoux
Screenplay: Luc Besson, Andrew Birkin

Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc
John Malkovich as Charles VII
Faye Dunaway as Yolande of Aragon
Dustin Hoffman as The Conscience
Vincent Cassel as Gilles de Rais

Music: Éric Serra
Cinematography: Thierry Arbogast
Editing: Sylvie Landra
Release Date: November 12, 1999
Running Time: 158 minutes
Language: English
Freddy's Movie Review

The Miscasting of Milla

Here we are with Luc Besson's historical drama! Yippee! I love historical dramas and learning about history and all that stuff! What I don't love is Milla Jovovich's acting. To me, casting her was a big mistake, probably because she was the director's girlfriend at the time. She ends up degrading the quality of the movie, in my opinion. She's overdramatic and uncomfortable to watch sometimes. She does well portraying a manic Joan, but that's all there is to it. She only captures one part of this unbelievably fascinating and important character in French history. There needed to be more grandiosity or nobility in her performance. She just comes off as a lunatic that everyone inexplicably listens to. Another thing that bothers me today is the portrayal of French people speaking English. I know it's all about the money, but what about the art, man? What about the art? 😂 I wish the actors spoke French against the rotten-toothed English guys for the sake of realism.

Knights, Battles, and Comedic Moments

Despite Milla's performance, I was very pleased with the rest of the cast, especially the knights and their eagerness for combat! Pascal Greggory, Vincent Cassel, Tchéky Karyo (the secret agent from Nikita), and Richard Ridings make medieval war sound like a lot of fun! If I were with these guys, I'd be ready to get my head chopped off! The battles were well-choreographed, entertaining, bloody, and brutal. I also enjoyed John Malkovich as Charles VII. His line, "Why won't she just go home!" had me laughing hard. There are some genuinely comedic moments, like when Joan gets shot in the leg and the dialogue goes: "Why are you staring at me? Because you have an arrow in your leg. So, there is." Milla's innocent response cracked me up. The big LOL was the sword falling from heaven! That was a great comedic build-up to that moment! I loved that scene with Dustin Hoffman (Will share the clip below). There's also a cool little scene where Joan falls from a ladder after being hit by an arrow, reminiscent of "The Fifth Element." It's interesting to note how the film portrays Joan getting shot multiple times, which seems historically accurate.

Historical Fascination and Missed Potential

I watched a documentary on Joan of Arc to verify the film's wildest claims and was impressed by how some of them, like Joan recognizing Charles VII among his courtiers, were true. Éric Serra's orchestral music is fitting, though I think something more original with his usual electronic-ish style could have been better. The burning scene's music sounded like a lackluster version of Carmina Burana, which was a bit too much. Visually, the movie looks good with excellent shots, and I'm starting to appreciate Thierry Arbogast's style. I liked the psychological story and how it focused on Joan's possible mental state, portraying her as a potential schizophrenic. In my opinion, the movie falls short due to Milla's acting but still has great entertainment value, especially since it piqued my interest in learning more about Joan of Arc. If your knowledge of Joan of Arc is a bit rusty, this movie is worth watching to reignite your curiosity about this fascinating historical figure.

Update: So regarding my biggest issue with this movie, I've learned that Luc Besson was initially on board as executive producer for a Joan of Arc film that Kathryn Bigelow had been developing for nearly a decade, titled "Company of Angels." She had everything lined up. Besson had agreed to consult on casting, which sounds innocent enough until you realize the real drama. Just eight weeks before filming, Besson discovered his then-wife, Milla Jovovich, wasn't going to get the lead role. Cue dramatic music! Besson pulled out his support and, more crucially, his financial backing. Bigelow, understandably miffed, threatened to sue for breach of contract and "stealing her research." The whole fiasco was settled out of court, probably with a lot of eye-rolling and sighs. And that's how Besson ended up directing "The Messenger" with Milla as Joan, proving that behind every historical drama, there's often an equally dramatic backstory.

🎥 Cinematography (8/10):

Beautifully shot with excellent battle scenes, medieval scenarios, and visually captivating moments.

📖 Story (6/10):

Engaging, with some creative liberties taken that might not sit well with all viewers, such as the fabricated backstory of Joan's sister being killed and raped while Joan was in hiding.

🎬 Direction (7/10):

Luc Besson's direction is strong, though the choice of casting Milla Jovovich detracts from the film.

👥 Characters (9/10):

I loved the energetic portrayals of the knights. They bring a fun, combative spirit to the film.

💥 Visual Effects (9/10):

Those chopped-off heads and arms were a must!

🎭 Acting (3/10):

While there are strong performances, Milla Jovovich's overdramatic portrayal of Joan is a weak point.

💬 Dialogue (7/10):

I've enjoyed the comedic dialogues and the talks between Joan and her conscience.

🌍 Setting/Atmosphere (8/10):

The medieval scenario was immersive, but I would have enjoyed hearing the French characters speaking French.

🎵 Music (7/10):

Éric Serra's orchestral score is fitting, but lacks originality or something to make it more distinctive.

😄 Entertainment Value (10/10):

Despite its flaws, the film is entertaining and provokes interest in the historical figure of Joan of Arc and the times where the Holy Motherfucker Church ruled everything.

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