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The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc(1999)
In the early 15th century, a young village girl receives visions that drive her to rid France of its oppressors.
For more about The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and the The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray release, see the The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Pascal Greggory, Richard Ridings
Director: Luc Besson
» See full cast & crew
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 11, 2009
An ambitious but ultimately flawed attempt in retelling the life of Joan of Arc French helmer Luc Besson's "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" (1999) is easier to enjoy as a lavish period drama than as an accurate historic film. The production values are impressive, but the script and especially Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc, aren't amongst the film's brighter spots. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.
Shooting a film about the life of Joan of Arc probably isn't the easiest of tasks. After all, if you believe that you could outdo the superb The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by Carl Dreyer, and The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962) by Robert Bresson, two undisputed classics of cinema, you are either an incredibly naïve director, or an impressively confident one.
Luc Besson's take on the subject is ambitious, we could agree on that. His film follows the young Joan (Jane Valentine) as she witnesses the ravaging of her village by the British, the rape of her sister, and consequently her controversial visions of God. Then the film skips forward to Charles VII and his decision to let Joan (Milla Jovovich) lead his armies against the British in Orléans, and eventually, the notorious trial leading to her burning at the stake.
What I, and others, cannot agree with is the manner in which the story of Joan of Arc is told. Overpolished, visually-distracting, and executed as a Hollywood-style epic with plenty of action but little substance to back it up, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc falls short of coming even remotely close to Dreyer and Bresson's films. What's even worse, once you see this film you are likely to be far more confused, not curious, about Joan's persona than you might have been before you endured its 158 minutes. Here's why:
The majority of the issues in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc stem from Jovovich's inability to provide a convincing portrait of Joan. For example, her sporadic catatonic visions are particularly confusing. Joan's "communication" with God is used as a pretext for a lot of the heroic acts she goes on to commit but, as depicted by Jovovich, it is so chaotic and devoid of substance that one might get the idea that she was was simply mad.
Of course, this could well have been the case since one could certainly argue, very successfully in fact, that true heroism is a form of well-controlled madness. The problem with such a read on Jovovich's impersonation of Joan of Arc is that her "sane" periods are also far too contradictive of what I described above. Add to that the prolonged battle scenes where multiple secondary characters become the focus of attention, thus effectively detracting from the intimate tone Besson is after, and you already have a film that is not only notably inconsistent but unintentionally controversial as well.
On a positive side of things, seen strictly as a high-caliber epic extravaganza with little historic accuracy, if any, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc could be quite an enjoyable experience. Besson's eye for steamy action gets quite a few of the battle scenes right, and one would be hard-pressed not to admit that once heads start rolling his camera is exactly where it should be.
The supporting cast, a motley crew of top-notch American, British, and French actors, is impressive on paper, but just as underwhelming as the feature is in action. Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, and Pascal Greggory, to name a few, all have their short moments of glory, but seem to be terribly inefficient in providing a long-lasting impression with their acting.
Last but not least, the film's whopping 158 minutes could be quite difficult to justify as well. Depending on how you approach The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, you could either argue that Besson did not spend enough time focusing on the main protagonist (hence, you could argue that the film should be even longer), or claim that given how chaotic everything feels a lot should have been left on the cutting floor (hence, you could argue that the film should be substantially shorter). Frankly, you would have a pretty strong case with either of the two options I noted above.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures.
Detail and clarity with this transfer appear largely satisfying even though there are some notable fluctuations that I was able to detect. Close-ups, however, are very impressive as they allow one to see substantially more than what the SDVD release of this film (which I own) does. The color-scheme is also noticeably better-rendered by the Blu-ray transfer. Yellows, greens, whites, reds, and browns, are all colors of importance in this film, and, fortunately enough, they look very convincing. Furthermore, aside from a few tiny specks that I was able to spot during the opening scenes, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc looks healthy as well – there aren't any disturbing scratches, debris, or dirt. If there is anything that might annoy some of you with this transfer, it is the fact that edge-enhancement does appear to have found its way on it, and occasionally I was able to spot its presence. Interestingly enough, there are scenes (such as Joan's vision in the field before she English attack her village) where it is very easy to spot it, and then there are large portions of the film that look absolutely stunning. Still, the overall quality of the transfer provided by Sony Pictures is undoubtedly an improvement over the transfer provided on the SDVD, therefore I strongly recommend that you consider the Blu-ray disc if this film has a special place in your heart. (Note: This is a Region-Free release which you will be able to play on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The following tracks are offered on this Blu-ray disc: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1, and Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1. Well, it is obvious that Sony Pictures have made this release as friendly as possible. The inclusion of the three Dolby TrueHD tracks, as well as the two dubs, will likely appeal to a large group of aficionados, so this is definitely good news. This being said, I opted for the English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix and did a few selective comparisons with the French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for the purpose of this review.
I don't think that there is much here one could be dissatisfied with. The English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is loud, crisp, and very potent. The battle scenes in particular are very effective, and you would be hard pressed not to recognize the enormous improvements the Blu-ray disc offers in the audio department over its SDVD counterparts. Furthermore, even during non-action scenes, such as the vision-segment in the very beginning where there is an abundance of ambient sounds, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track shines (the rear channels are very impressive). On the other hand, the prolonged battle scenes benefit from a thunderous bass which will likely test the muscle of your home equipment. Also, the dialog is crystal clear and very easy to follow. I did not detect any pops, cracks, or balance issues to report here either. This being said, I did switch between the English and French Dolby Digital TrueHD tracks, and to be honest I find them to be practically identical. Specifically, I did not hear any substantial differences in terms of balance. Finally, I would like to mention that Sony Pictures have provided optional English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Indonesian Bahasa, Korean, Thai, and Dutch subtitles. For the record, the subtitles are split - they appear inside and outside of the image frame.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing to be found on this Blu-ray disc in terms of supplemental materials. In fact, even though The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is also BD-Live enabled, there is nothing at the Sony web portal either (only a few trailers for other Sony productions). This is quite strange to say the least, given that past SDVD releases of this film actually offered some supplemental materials.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is an ambitious film to say the least. Unfortunately, it is also a notably flawed one. The Blu-ray release, courtesy of Sony Pictures, provides an acceptable video transfer, a very good audio treatment, and surprisingly, absolutely nothing in the extras department. Look for a good sale price on this one before you add it to your collections!
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The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Luc Besson Classics Coming to Blu-ray - September 22, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have announced that they will bring the Luc Besson films 'Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc' and 'La Femme Nikita' to Blu-ray on December 2nd. 'Joan of Arc' will be presented in 2.40:1 1080p AVC while 'Nikita' will be presented ...
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