The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

Don’t shoot me!

Good thing they tacked on that subtitle, or else I would’ve been looking for the bicycle through the whole picture.

Here’s the ex-husband-and-wife team of Luc Besson and Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) with their latest epic, leaving bible-thumpers with a choice of whether to protest this film, Dogma or Julien Donkey Boy this weekend. It’s the umpteenth re-telling of the story, but the only one I’ve seen so far that I can understand.

Joan has ever been the source of controversy. Was she a teenage saint? A hero? A lunatic? A feminist icon? A rabble-rouser? A schizophrenic? The ultimate cheerleader? Tool of the Devil? The Christian Xena? Besson succeeds in presenting Joan’s story (co-written with Andrew Birkin, who appears as England’s cocky military leader Talbot) with a more-or-less even hand, translating her passion into images while leaving the door open for interpretation. It’s a bit long, but plenty vivid. And, unlike every other version, he doesn’t hesitate to illustrate the in-yo-face grue that was combat in the middle ages. Warfare in those days was mostly fought face-to-face – the winner was the one who still had a face.

The fact is, France might still be a part of Britain if this young woman hadn’t started raving about her crazy visions – an important lesson, whatever way you look at it. Jovovich does a fine job portraying the many levels and hair colors required, while John Malkovich provides some comic relief as the prissy King Charles VII of France.

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