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The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc


The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc

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A throwback to the early Cinemascope days, when religious and historical epics were big, busy, and brainless, Luc Besson's The Messenger stars Milla Jovovich as Joan Of Arc, the Maid Of France instructed by the voice of God to lead an army against the English at one of the late turning points of the Hundred Years War. An uneasy mixture of blood-and-guts action, music-video-like religious imagery, and humor (at least some of it intentional), Besson's film (co-written with Andrew Birkin) has virtually nothing to say about faith or history that falls outside the realm of kitsch. Jovovich did an admirable job spouting gibberish in Besson's similarly silly space opera The Fifth Element, and she has enough presence to command attention in Loreál commercials. But she's an unremarkable, anachronistic Joan, seeming less possessed by the Holy Spirit than the spirit of Resse Witherspoon's can-do character in Election. Still, Jovovich is far from solely to blame in a film that forces her to dance in the woods with a friendly Jesus, act like a cheerleader as she leads an army into battle, and behave like a supermodel throwing a tantrum as she cuts her hair with a sword. Those are just a few of the laughable touches in The Messenger, which, alongside other moments of historical inventiveness, creates a ridiculous backstory that gives Jovovich a motivation straight out of Death Wish and casts the middle-aged John Malkovich as France's Charles VII, who was only a few years older than the teenaged Joan. Malkovich at least seems to enjoy himself, playing Charles as a fey spoiled brat, but even without its historical inaccuracies, The Messenger would still be shallow and dumb, a loud spectacle whose sound and fury truly signifies nothing. Dustin Hoffman's appearance as a spectre who may be Jovovich's conscience or Jesus at least shows some creativity, breaking with the film's gory-storybook approach. It's hardly enough, however, to make it any less of a relief when Jovovich shows up tied to a stake, indicating that The Messenger can't last much longer.