messengerbluThere have been many Joan of Arc films released over the last 80 years. In 1999, we would get the release of ‘The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc’ by French director Luc Besson. The film would release to theaters with a domestic box office gross of $14 million dollars and a hefty $50 million dollar budget. Talk about under delivering; this would be a failure as a theatrical release. On Blu-ray Sony is releasing the International version of the film that adds an extra 10 minutes clocking in at 158 minutes.

‘The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc’ tells the story of a heroin that will try to fight off the English out of France. Besson goes for epic proportions with this film as he tries to tell a larger tale by expanding on the story. Thing begin when Jeanne (Jane Valentine) is younger as there is an attack by English soldiers on the village she lives in. Not only do they devastate everything in the village, they also rape her sister right in front of her. This ends up having a lasting effect on Jeanne which would never go away for a very long time.

Jeanne starts to believe that God is calling out to her through visions. These visions are a sign that she needs to be the heroin that will lead her people to victory over the English. Jeanne (Milla Jovovich) as a teenager has her mindset already and a plan that the English must be pushed out of France. While she has never fought in war, her heart and desire to free her country are in the right place. Jeanne requests Charles VII (John Malkovich) to allow her to lead an army to stop the English. She is laughed upon due to her being so young with no background in leading an army and even more so, fighting in a war.

Jeanne begins to get others to join her in the fight to lead an army. The more that Charles VII see this, he seeks the advice from his mother-in-law Yolande D’Argon (Faye Dunaway). She pushes him to give an army to Jeanne which he finally decides upon. Things aren’t all rosy for Jeanne even though she does win the battle in Orléans. None of the other generals have any faith in her and even Charles sees her as just a pawn in his own little game. He causes all kinds of troubles for her as he cuts off her military support that is needed to win this whole war against the English. Once Charles becomes King, he would throw Jeanne to the wolves so he could make his backdoor dealings with the English. So the famous trial begins, the Trial of Joan of Arc.

I found Milla to be just way too green in this role as Jeanne. Her inexperience at the time really showed through the character that she was trying to portray. She wouldn’t have been my top choice. I did enjoy John Malkovich as King Charles VII. He pulls through in his performances time and time again no matter the situation.

This is a very interesting take on the tale as religion is not made the focal point of the story, but it lingers in the background. You can take the story in your own interpretation on the character of Jeanne. Besson does a good job leaving it opens to interpretation on how you want to perceive Jeanne. As an evangelical heroin or a girl that doesn’t have it all upstairs. I think that a forced direction would have worked better to tie in the entire tale. I bet that choosing a particular direction on the mentality of Jeanne could have caused more controversy.
Movie Content: 3/5

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Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Colors look good with a saturated look to them. Blacks are deep. Details also hold up very well, except for scenes where the camera pans away. That is when the print doesn’t look as good. There is some grain throughout the film, but it is presented very subtle, and more noise like. Never does it get distracting. For those that hate the dreaded Edge Enhancement, it is a part of the transfer.
Video Quality: 3/5

Audio is presented with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. This is one area that Sony engineers have done an exceptional job with for all Blu-ray catalog films released so far this year. The mix is very immersive with some accurate bass levels. During the battles, you can hear all kinds of effects in the surrounds that come through very loud and clean. Dialogue is also very clear with no issues making this a well balanced mix.
Audio Quality: 4/5

Special Features

  • Sony Blu-ray Trailers

I am surprised that not a single feature from the previous DVD release made it on to the Blu-ray.
Special Features: 0/5

The Final Word

‘The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc’ is not that bad of a film with telling the story of Jeanne. Besson takes a rather different approach with the film delivering a good take, but not the epic tale that he had hoped to achieve. Audio is excellent for a catalogue title, while the video presentation is lacking a bit. With no special features at all, it does hurt this film.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5 (Rental)