Joan-Chilling Combat
The Messenger
Review by Ross Anthony

"The Messenger" is a great movie that doesn't know when to quit. So in an effort to enhance your viewing pleasure allow me to deliver this message, "Leave the theater when Joan is captured."

I know that's a bold thing to say about a bold film that is thick with vitality and blood-curdling drama. Directed with great care from a rather slow paced introduction to a catapulting climax; this "mini-epic" is definitely a surging "A" grade at this point. But there's forty-five more minutes of film that unravel from the reel like Joan's spirit from her tortured ribcage.

But allow me to praise for a while. Forget Joan of Arc, I believe in Milla Jovovich! I would follow her into battle! Her tremblingly honest portrayal of God's own peasant woman divinely sent to unify the French armies against the invading British of the 1400's will have you reaching for your mighty daggers against your personal demons (no undue insult meant to our current British neighbors). Milla is magnificent and the cinematography grand! (And I don't usually get excited about costume period pieces.) One inspired woman charms the allegiance of even hard core warrior leaders leaving them, as well as us, dumbfounded.

Hungry, yet oddly hypnotized by Joan's faith, the French soldiers rush the British fortress. Joan, twelve feet up the wall, takes an arrow to the upper torso. Cut to British archer POV (point of view). We've just shot an arrow into the legendary Joan of Arc, her mysteriously innocent (despite the chain mail and steel sword) blue eyes peer deep into ours ... with shock, no ... pity, pity for us. Then in slow motion she falls backward from the ladder into the mass of French warriors who stop dodging gnashing hatchets in order to catch her. It's the kind of silver screen moment that movie-goers live for! I loved it!

That's why it's personally difficult not to ignore the imperfections that mar this near masterpiece. The biggest of which is the aforementioned needlessly lengthy resolution that serves only to deconstruct the film's main character. Second, is the under use of John Malkovich as the king of France who is so wonderfully overwhelmed by Joan's nervously potent proem. Yet, his character too, is also deconstructed (this time without due process) into a rather cold immature puppet. I may have been convinced, were I given glimpses of his internal struggle with the question on everyone's tongues, "Is this Joan really set ablaze by the voice of the one God, or is she just a loon?" A tormented Malkovich at battle with himself cut intermittently into Joan's grizzly battle scenes, would have served this bold picture well.

Still, an extremely strong "B+" with performances, direction and cinema moments that will burn themselves at the stake into your memory.

  • The Messenger. Copyright © 1999. Rated R.
  • Starring Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, and Dustin Hoffman.
  • Written by Andrew Birkin and Luc Besson.
  • Directed by Luc Besson.
  • Produced by Patrice Ledoux at Columbia


Copyright © 1999. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

chili4 special olympians
power5 ra hforh radiop

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:03:26 PDT