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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much maligned but I liked it
Luc Besson has a reputation for spectacular movies such as Taxi, Leon, The Fifth Element, etc. Joan of Arc is no exception. It details the life of Jeanne, the maiden of Lorraine, who in and around the year 1431, helped France defeat England, and win a war that has lasted for almost an entire century. The plot is great, and paced well. The performances that impressed me...
Published on 17 May 2007 by Jay

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a bugger's muddle!
That the tale of Joan of Arc has over the years and not just in films led to so many different interptetations of the character and the actual facts used, inevitably means that Luc Besson and his co-writer would have had an unenviable challenge whatever their approach to the story. Add to that as a French director and the emotional role the character holds in French...
Published on 29 Sept. 2011 by Siriam


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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much maligned but I liked it, 17 May 2007
Luc Besson has a reputation for spectacular movies such as Taxi, Leon, The Fifth Element, etc. Joan of Arc is no exception. It details the life of Jeanne, the maiden of Lorraine, who in and around the year 1431, helped France defeat England, and win a war that has lasted for almost an entire century. The plot is great, and paced well. The performances that impressed me the most, however, were those of Milla Jovovich and Dustin Hoffman, as Jeanne and her conscience, respectively. They never cease to amaze me. The characters were well-written and credible. I liked the way the film seems to question Jeanne's sanity; whereas most believe that she *was* in fact, sent by God, this film sits down and asks the question, if she really was, or if the signs and miracles weren't all in her head, and caused by everyone wanting to believe it. The very last scenes especially puts doubt in the viewer. It was quite a gutsy move by Besson, to question his own country's hero. I will admit, the film does really make it seem more like she is crazy rather than sent by God, but it doesn't feel like Besson is pushing his view onto us, telling us that that's the way it was; it feels more like he tries to make us question it. The action and the war scenes were very well done, very chaotic and disturbing, very intense and bloody.
All in all, a very enjoyable war-drama, with an authentic story and some well-done battle sequences. I recommend it to fans of the actors, of Luc Besson's other work and of war movies/dramas in general. Just don't expect a full-out war movie; it's two hours and thirty minutes long, and I don't think more than forty-five minutes in total are spent fighting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original and spectacular, 17 Jun. 2012
By 
JPS - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
This film has a rather original - and perhaps not always convincing - take on the character of Joan of Arc, played here by Milla Jovovich as being somewhat shrill, or even hysterical at times. One reviewer wondered whethe she was really a Saint inspired by God (but then why would God necessarily take the French's side?) or whether she was "plain bonkers". Luc Besson, often original - regardless of whether tou likeor not what he does (and a lot of people tend to not like it - seems to have gone for some mix of the two.

This tends to somewhat summarize LUc Besson, his style, and this film in particular. It is spectacular all the way, from the battle scenes - as gory and "realistic" as you might expect - to Jeanne's "voices", pictured as if in some kind of fantasy or even a horror film. You like it very much or you dislike it just as intensily, or, you like perhaps some of it - the battle scenes are rather good, although they may perhaps feel a bit "overdone" -(and "over gory" in particlar), but then this is about personal preferences and since none of us were actually there, it's rather difficult to objectively appreciate whether scene A or scene B is "realistic" or not.

Now, to what extent is this film historically accurate? Here also, reviewers have tended to go to extremes. In fact, the film is generally more accurate than the average film we are used to watching, whether Troy, Brave Heart, Gladiator, Robin Hood (both the older version with Kevin Costner and the one with Russell Crowe), Kingdom of Heaven. However, everything is definitly NOT historical. The Director has taken a number of liberties, as Directors always tend to do. For instance, the beginning of the film, where the farm of Joan of Arc's parents is attacked and her sister gets into trouble, to put it mildly, is one of these inventions. Is it a howler? Not necessarily, unless who require each and every of your films that take place in Antiquity or during the Middle Ages to be as historical accurate as possible, but in such a case, there are hardly any that you will really like. On the other hand, there are also a lot of cases where Luc Besson has stuck to the historical record as much as possible.

After the ways in which the "wicked English" were rather mistreated in both Brave Heart and the Patriot (Mel Gibson in both cases, I'm afraid), some reviewers have been wondering whether, yet again, the English were being somewhat portrayed and caricatured as "the baddies", and were somewhat annoyed at it. In particular, some may have wondered whether depicting the English as insulting Joan and treating her as if she was a witch while also behaving as what could be seens as a cowardly manner, was not tainted with some unpleasant undertones of rench nationalism. This is, of course, a film done by a French Director, something than could fuel such a suspicion until one remembers how superstitious people were in the 15th century and on both sides (and how superstitious most of them were well before and well after). A young and (supposedly) inexperienced maiden leading to war seasoned warriors was simply unheard of at the time. That she was successful and brought victory a couple of times at Orléans, where the six months old English siege was finally broken, and went on to win a convincing victory at Patay and to escort the Dauphin to be crowne in Reims with her army, could only be a tremendous boost to the flaging morale of the French, who were clearly losing the war before her arrival, and, on the contrary, make the English wonder if the she was not Heavenly inspired, since all her enterprises seemed to be successful.

Besides, for those who might still doubt and wonder whether the Director is being biased, it is possible to check through the sources. Jeanne, regardlss of whether she was "inspired" or not, clearly presented a HUGE problem for the English Kingdom of France and the Duke of Bedford in particular, simply because some, in both camps, could believe that she was inspired by God, and therefore successful. This is alo why some much effort was put in by the English, once she was captured by their Burgundian allies, into having her handig over to them. The English could not afford to have her ransomed by the French because she had become a symbol. Moreover, they needed to destroy this potent symbol, hence her trial for witchcraft and her execution in Rouen.

The most interesting question of all is, of course, whether she really was "inspired" or not. The French Dauphin (an excellent John Malkovitch) and, even more so, his stately and scheming mother-in-law Yolande of Aragon (an excellent Faye Dunaway) certainly chose to believe so, and it clearly suited their interests. The Catholic Church made her into a Saint, but only in 1920. The French have made her into a national heroïn and she is now one of the symbols of the Far Right nationalist party in France. Interestingly, some revisionist French historians - but not Luc Besson who did not take this kind of risk - have wondered about who she was exactly and whether she really was "divinely inspired" or not. The starting point here is that it is highly unlikely for this young teen-ager to have really been a little sheperd girl for at least three reasons. She knew how ro ride. She wore armour and seems to have also known how to fight. She also has no problems in making herself understood at Court once she arried at Bourges, at a time where country folk in France spoke a wide range of dialects and languages - as opposed to Court French.

From there, you can start imagining all sorts of conspiracy theories, one of them being that she might have been a bastard half-sister of the Dauphin soon to become Charles VII and that thewhole thing was set up by Yolande of Aragon who knew of her existence and might even have been in charge for her upbringing.

Finally, another strong point in this film is the cast of characters. Some have liked Mila's performance. Others have hated it while still others have excused her by saying she was just doing what she was told and that is why she sounds and often appears shrill and hysterical. Granted, she was not, at the time at least, the best or the most professional actor you could think of but she coul have done a lot worse. Other actors are probably much better in their roles, such as Vincent Cassel playing a yound Gilles the Rais or Tcheky Karyo in the role of Dunois, commander-in-chief of the Fenech army and the bastard son of the Duke of Orleans (and therefore the cousin of Charles, future Charles VII). The other actors playing the French captains are rather good also, in particular La Hire, historically known for always swearing and who, to avoid being told of by the young girl, did a huge effort not to swear when she was around, or Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, or the duke of Alençon. These hard and seasoned captains all somehow deferred to Jeanne, however grudgindly, and this is also rather surprising and interesting coming from them. All had much more experience than her. Some were even royal kins. Most behaved more like mercenaries, or at least warlords, happy to kill, burn, loot and rape, but their all obeyed her commands, at least to a certain extent. In itself, this is yet another hint that there was something extremely unsual with Joan of Arc, whatever version you chose to believe.

So, at he end of this long review, and despite its limitations - I should have also mentioned the piece where Joan wrestles with her conscious played by Dustin Hoffman as being possibly the worst of the whole film - I believe this very entertaining and spectacular film, which is also more conventional that it may look and feel, is just about worth (a slightly generous) four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting interpretation., 1 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
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I found Luc Besson's take on the story of Joan of Arc thoroughly compelling. Like all of Besson's films, The Messenger is highly stylized, nicely cast, and visually powerful. The film is also forgivably anachronistic in terms of language while developing a strong period feel through sets and costume.

Joan was, of course, the deeply religious teenage girl who lead Prince Charles' army to improbable victory over the invading English at Orleans and helped re-consolidate French sovereignty. Joan considered herself God's appointed messenger, and France apparently saw her as an avenging angel. Today, she is commonly regarded as a schizophrenic. She was canonized in the 1950s, 500 years after her death. Regardless of whether God or insanity was the source of her strength, power, will and incredible courage - there is little ambiguity about her role in the salvation of France nor the fate that awaited her afterward.

In general, the acting is quite good. Jovovich's much-maligned performance is actually very good and exactly appropriate for what Besson was trying to do with the film. Comparing Joan of Arc to her other Messianic role as Leelu in the Fifth Element is, frankly, ridiculous. I believe that the problems people find in Jovovich's performance are problems those same people bring to the film. Malkovich and Dunaway are phenomenal. Tcheky Karyo and Vincent Cassell provide excellent support.

The cinematography, production values and rousing music score are excellent.

The film raises more questions than it answers, and that's as it should be. It is something of a shame that Besson's film takes liberties with the facts as we understand them (though history is more often about our interpretation of events than the events themselves), but in terms of raising important questions on the nature of faith, it succeeds beyond measure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A GOOD HISTORICAL FILM LET DOWN BY NO SPECIAL FEATURES!, 3 Jun. 2012
In 1429 the Hundred Years War is not going well for France. English soldiers are freely roaming French soil and the Duke of Burgundy (MICHAEL JENN) has allianced himself with the English forces under Lord Talbot (ANDREW BERKIN).

The Dauphin of France, Charles (JOHN MALKOVICH) is in a quandary for his treasury is almost empty and the army demoralised. While the English threaten his dwindling borders, Charles turns to the stern Yolande of Aragon (FAYE DUNAWAY), who tells him that his prayers may soon be answered. A young peasant girl named Joan (MILLA JOVOVICH) is seeking an audience with the Dauphin and rumours abound that she has been sent by God to save France from imminent destruction.

Ignoring his court aides, Charles sees Joan in a private meeting and instantly grants her a small army, much to the castigation of seasoned warriors like Dunois (TCHEKY KARYO) and Giles de Rais (VINCENT CASSEL), who resent being commanded by a young woman. They soon change their minds.

Joan leads the outnumbered French forces to stunning victories at Orleans and Reims, allowing the Dauphin to be crowned Charles VII at the cathedral here, but her march on Paris ends in disaster. When she personally confronts the new king for reinforcements to continue the campaign, Joan finds him indifferent and preparing to seek a diplomatic, rather than military, conclusion.

Charles now finds himself with another dilemma. Joan has achieved his ambition for the crown but the young woman could now become a dangerous liability if she persists in causing trouble with the English so a peace treaty cannot be signed. Spurred on by Yolande of Aragon, Charles callously allows Joan to fall into a trap set by the Duke of Burgundy, who soon sells her to the English.

Joan is promptly handed over to the Duke of Bedford (DAVID GANT), who plans to burn her as a heretic, despite the objections of Cauchon (TIMOTHY WEST), that she be given a fair trial. Meanwhile Joan spends her time in prison wrestling with her own conscience (DUSTIN HOFFMAN) while awaiting sentence in several emotionally charged scenes.

Has she really been sent by God to save France, or can the signs she has been finding be given a more earthly explanation?

There have been numerous films about Joan of Arc over the years and this one, by LUC BESSON, is a good adaptation. Most of the battle scenes are somewhat brutal and realistic. We continuously see decapitations and splattering blood, not to mention crows pecking at corpses, for instance. In contrast the brief siege of Paris is rather disappointing and let down badly by the fact that the French soldiers seem to be climbing the city walls totally unopposed.

MILLA JOVOVICH gives a feisty performance as Joan and expresses a nice range of emotions. She is at first tentative, then full of bravado before remorse and self doubt begin to set in.

Despite spanning such an interesting time in history, with plenty of material available about the period, not to mention one of the leading historical figures of France, the only Special Features on the disc are a couple of trailers and these are not even for the film featured here!

Although hardly a Saintly package, the film is good, plus it looks and sounds great on the Blu-ray format.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a bugger's muddle!, 29 Sept. 2011
By 
Siriam (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
That the tale of Joan of Arc has over the years and not just in films led to so many different interptetations of the character and the actual facts used, inevitably means that Luc Besson and his co-writer would have had an unenviable challenge whatever their approach to the story. Add to that as a French director and the emotional role the character holds in French history and imagery, he then also needed to satisfy his Hollywood budegt and utilise US stars in certain roles (John Malkovitch as the emotionally weak Dauphin turns in another well played turn; Faye Dunaway as his mother in law shows that her recent under utilisation in film roles is our loss; and, Dustin Hoffman ends up just boring and embarrassing, about which more below)and Besson faced a hard task.

The movie struggles to bind together many strands and sadly the final overall result is a muddle though for the first two thirds odd from the early childhood history till Joan's "capture" and being sold for a ransom to the English for trial, Besson does do a very credible job of conveying the panorama of French history and the emotional and dramatic impact that Joan of Arc had on the change in France's military fortunes. While Milla Jovovich has received a fair amount of adverse comment, for me her portrayal does convey the sheer military amateurism and raw messianic energy that one feels must have been close to how it really was. The comments made on how the English are depicted sadly overlooks the antagonistic and detructive influence that English forces did have on France across the centuries - the film may not be 100% correct but is not fiction either. In addition, Besson has used a cast of strong French actors to portray the nobility and their variable moods well despite the Hollywood lead dominance in billings.

Where the film really falls apart is the final third covering the trials and execution, mixed with Joan of Arc's mental torments in this period of isolation and trials, given little happens action wise. The use of Hoffman as an alter ego or spiritual conscience might work well in the theatre but on screen it ends up being tedious and self defeating. In parts it does show that if visuals are used, what might have been (the questioning around how she found a sword in the field she was lying in while having a vision from God is a great cinematic scene) but instead we have too much of Hoffman with monk's cowel and beard simply delivering lines that confuse and bore the plot. Mixed in with some pretty badly delivered trial scenes (both in acting and script) and an execution that would look more at home in an MTV video than reflecting the horror of what is happening, left me concerned that Besson either just lost interest or there was endless compromising to agree an acceptable story closure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I don't think. I leave that to God. I'm nothing in all this, I'm just the Messenger., 28 Mar. 2011
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
Luc Besson directs and Milla Jovovich stars as the Maid Of Orleans who lifted France of its knees-and was tried and executed for being a heretic. The End.

Well that's what you would think all Besson's film amounts too, given the hate and general negativity that pours down on it from many of the worlds cinematic sources. Well, look, it's not brilliant, but is it really the devil that many have painted it as? Not so say I. It's about as subtle as a sledgehammer all told, but Besson's study of the iconic/infamous waif who did indeed expel the British hoards has gusto by the shed load. He nicely crafts the 15th century lands from which to tell his story, and then, to quote someone from another period epic, unleashes hell. Literally. Yep the British armies are stereotypically vile {I bet Mel Gibson loves the Brit portrayals here}, and the blood that is shed is vicious and borderline sick. But it works well in the context of Jeanne's prominent rise and subsequent fall, with her religious confliction deftly blending in with the blood being shed in the pursuit of liberation. Visually the film is a treat, and for action construction it holds up to be one of the better modern day historical epics in that department. But where's the substance?

Ah, there's the big problem with the movie. Besson and his co-writer Andrew Birkin are so pre-occupied with the horrors of war and Jeanne's leadership qualities, they turn the rest of the film into a skeleton in need of flesh. And it's actually Jovovich who suffers the most. She's great when she's screaming and launching into the enemy, taking an arrow hit with grace and dedication . But there's been no character depth laid out, so Jovovich's Jeanne just comes across as a moody teenager out to cause trouble. We need to have some insight into her troubled predicament and what drives her on, not the scantily written filler moments that actually are just appetisers to blood letting battles. There 's also annoyances when the film slips into moments of modern day speak, it's a crass and lazy oversight by the makers to think that we wouldn't notice such speak in 15th Century France. Besson surrounds Jovovich with some fine acting talent tho, even if some are a tad underused. Rolling out are John Malkovich, Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Vincent Cassel, Timothy West, Desmond Harrington and the always watchable, and scary, Tcheky Karyo.

So a bit hollow it be, but on the outside it's a ripper. Visceral, explosive and yes, fun too. 7/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I don't think. I leave that to God. I'm nothing in all this, I'm just the Messenger.", 18 Jun. 2009
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
A few unfortunate lines of dialogue aside, it's hard to see why Luc Besson's epic was met with such derision - it's full of some terrific film-making, the battles are the right size, the story's well-told and Milla Jovovich comes over surprisingly well as someone caught somewhere between God's will and psychosis. The inclusion, two hours in, of Dustin Hoffman as her conscience to address her own and the audience's doubts as to whether she is driven by divine guidance or self-delusion is an inspired touch that is completely unexpected in a mainstream epic on this scale. Unfortunately, it's also the point when the film almost crosses the line into Monty Python - the dialogue's just too funny too often, and somehow the notion of a 15th Century French Catholic peasant girl's conscience manifesting itself as a 62-year-old New York Jewish actor in a cowl doesn't seem overly likely. Curiously, these scenes work better on a second viewing when you're not caught so off-guard by them.

On a narrative level, these scenes do help punctuate the back-and-forth nature of the trial, but it would have probably been much better to have her in her cell talking to her unseen visions. There are still some compensations. The trial is well-handled, and Timothy West avoids the kind of ham that usually marks his cinematic turns (cf Cry Freedom) to give a surprisingly good performance as a mainly decent man trapped in an impossible situation, very similar to Ray MacAnally's role in The Mission. It's not a flawless film by any means, but it is one of the better and more ambitious 90s epics and one that's long overdue for reappraisal.

Columbia's DVD includes the European cut of the film (some 10 minutes longer than the US version), featurette Beyond the Icon, isolated score track and teaser and full trailer. The Blu-ray contains the longer cut but absolutely none of the extras.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting epic, 6 May 2001
By A Customer
I really enjoyed this film. Contrary to Amazon's review, I felt that Milla gave a riveting performance as Joan, making her a sympathetic, but real, warts and all, character. The portrayal of her God given messages are suited to today's more sceptic audiences. The film never really answers the question were they real or not, which is a positive point, as no one really knows. It's nice not to be offered simple answers. On a personal level it's the interaction between Joan and the generals that interested me most, and which gives the film a human aspect. I know very little about the real Joan of Arc, but this film makes me want to find out more, which is what historic films should do. The battle sequences were honestly brutal - making Gladiator look tame by comparison. Not a film for the faint hearted but fascinating for anyone who wants to watch a complex film that doesn't insult the audience by offering a lame, cliched solution.!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably not what was intended but still fun., 21 Oct. 2002
By A Customer
I have a feeling that this desperately wants to be a great film but, unfortunately, it's not. The difficulty here is explaining why it's not.
Have you ever tried to explain why "Casablanca" is great to someone who hasn't seen it? All the pieces just fell out at the end and there was a great film.
The more I think about various scenes in Joan of Arc, the more I think I must have just watched a great movie but when I actually got to the end of the movie, I was oddly unsatisfied.
Basically, despite any pretensions it has of being "deep", it's just a bit of a romp.
Most of the entertainment comes from the supporting characters. John Malkovich's scenes with his advisers, family and henchmen are worth watching the film for alone.
Naturally the villains are English and we all know what great villains the English make. One particularly nasty bit of work appears to actually be Scottish, which is bizarre considering the historical setting, but like I say, this is fun if you aren’t taking the film seriously.
Joan herself (Jovovich) is every bit as annoying as I'm sure the obsessed woman was in real life.
Was she a saint? Was she a heretic? Was she mad?
I don't know whether or not it was deliberate but Jovovich's performance clearly puts Joan in the "just plain bonkers" category. But again this is part of fun.
Dustin Hoffman plays Jiminy Cricket… er, I mean her conscience but whether or not he actually read the whole script, or indeed if he knows what the film is about, I will leave to your own judgement. Oddly enough the idea of this mega star hamming it up in a borrowed cloak (I assume he didn't bother have a costume fitted) actually adds to the general rompyness of the whole thing.
I really don't know if Luc Besson intended me to like it the way I did (I think he had something more worthy in mind) but I liked it never the less. This is how Golden Age Hollywood would have made it but with modern film gloss.
Oh, and the battle scenes are great (if not historically accurate)...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jeanne, the maiden of Lorraine, on film by Besson, 3 Dec. 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
Luc Besson tackled a difficult subject when he decided to film Joan of Arc, an enigmatic historical character, despite the information we have. How does one choose how to portray Jeanne, the maiden of Lorraine, who helped to defeat the English in and around the year 1431 because she had been sent by God. Previous films have concentrated on her other wordliness, her "saintliness"; Besson concentrated more on her as a person, trying to create the individual woman who achieved such great military successes in a violent man's world.

Besson tried to dig deeper, to peel away layers into personalities of the time and, while not historically accurate, he did produce a film whch holds the attention and makes viewers think. I do not watch films for history lessons, although they do help to create atmospheres and impressions. This film did just that.

Recommended
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Joan Of Arc - The Messenger [DVD] [2000]
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