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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Action > French > Luc Besson Ė La Femme Nikita + The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (Sony Blu-rays)

Luc Besson Ė La Femme Nikita + The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (Sony Blu-rays)


Picture:Sound:Extras:†† Film:


La Femme Nikita B/B/B-/A-

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc B+/B+/C/B



With the Blu-ray format off and rolling more and more catalogue titles are making their way to the format to give it the momentum that it needs.Fans are quickly making the shift and converting their collections, arriving here are two Luc Besson films that die-hard fans have always loved and enjoyed.We already covered one of his better films Ė La Femme Nikita when it arrived to DVD in a special edition, you can read about it here.This is our first time checking out his 1999 film The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, which is still a film trying to find itís audience, maybe Blu-ray will finally make that a reality.


The Messenger stars Milla Jovovich as Joan and she plays the part to perfection, despite some of the films shortcomings, itís a solid performance that garnered much attention for her, even after working with Besson earlier on The Fifth Element.The two felt that they could perhaps roll the dice again, but the film was unable to attract commercial or critical success upon its arrival.Much can be speculated as to why this might be the case; my opinion is that there are several factors leading to this.The first is that the title of the film is a bit lengthy and trivial, plus it arrived right around the same time as a much hyped up TV version, which would star Leelee Sobieski and was actually a pretty good made-for-TV version, certainly a less artsy version.Bessonís film tries to be more internal, reflective, and emotional, but he has a hard time managing this, while also trying to be historically significant.


The biggest downside with The Messenger is that it was an early arrival on a very young format as DVD was just starting to get some legs; the film was released and at the time was decent quality.However, quality on DVD was beginning to take shape and transfers were starting to get even better, plus audio formats like DTS were starting to become popular among audiophiles as it offered superior sound.Besson was able to get The Fifth Element to be one of the first Superbit titles released, which would offer superior picture and sound to DVD, shortly after his film Leon would follow.Internationally the same became true for The Messenger, but U.S. audiences felt shortchanged and the one and only DVD release for the film soon showed its limitations in both picture and sound by comparison with newer releases.That particular DVD featured a rather lackluster Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that never did the film justice.


Itís exciting to finally get worthy releases of both films, more so with The Messenger as it has almost been 10 years since its DVD release.Fans will definitely want to dump their DVD versions of these films and quickly upgrade to the Blu-rays, both films shine in their HD glory.


The Messenger is presented in a 2.40 X 1 framed transfer in 1080p High Definition that finally demonstrates the films production design and unique visual style.The film contains several close-up shots that reveal the refinements that Blu-ray is capable of making with the higher resolution transfer, plus colors are far more accurate and detailed.There is a certain richness that is evident throughout as well, especially if compared to the DVD, which was highly compressed and showed softness throughout.Here we get a rich color palette with deep inky blacks, true refined whites, and a very life-like picture that helps tell the story.


The audio is also highly improved with a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 mix that is incredibly engaging with fine sonic value throughout.There are plenty of battle scenes and other high-activity moments to set the mix in motion, the soundstage if highly detailed with fine moments of both high end and low-end presence.Dialogue is equally balanced and the score by Eric Serra has never sounded as distinct until now.


La Femme Nikita on Blu-ray is also a huge improvement over a DVD transfer from before that was decent, but still showed compression and limitations, especially in the vibrancy of color.There are several scenes in particular that still show a bit of softness and age here, in some respects the transfer looks recycled, but is still an improvement as we get the film in a 1080p High Definition transfer framed in scope 2.35 X 1.


Audio is also impressive as an upgraded Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 finally surpasses the basic Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was available on DVD versions of the film.Now we get a far more engaging mix that is more pronounced throughout and offers a more realistic and lively mix that doesnít feel compressed or limited.The Dolby Digital mix on the DVD always felt forward heavy, not the case here as the Blu-ray mix is more balanced and the soundstage spreads much wider and deeper.Fidelity is also greatly improved and with the same extras is a definite upgrade worth making.


While the only extras on The Messenger is a Blu-ray Live feature that is really just a bunch of promotional stuff, the DVD didnít contain any extras either, so just the technical improvements and performance of the Blu-ray make it a must for any fan of the film.



-†† Nate Goss


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