Luc Besson – La Femme
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (Sony
La Femme Nikita B/B/B-/A-
The Messenger: The Story of Joan
of Arc B+/B+/C/B
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 – 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 it’s 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, it’s
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. Besson’s film tries to be more
internal, reflective, and emotional, but he has a hard time managing this, while
also trying to be historically significant.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 doesn’t 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.
only extras on The Messenger is a
Blu-ray Live feature that is really just a bunch of promotional stuff, the DVD
didn’t 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