Leon

*Updated version of review from 2003

cropped-leon_the_professional_1.jpg

A  film which blends genres and emotions, Leon became one of the the most highly rated and loved cult hits of the 90s, thanks in no small part to the talented cast and director. Luc Besson’s film concerns a quiet and solitary hit-man who befriends a young girl after her family is slaughtered by a local crooked cop. Jean Reno stars as Leon, in his best performance, the professional hit-man with 100% success rate, solitary yet lonely. Gary Oldman is the crooked cop, stealing almost every scene he is in while Natalie Portman plays Mathilda, in one of the best child performances ever, conveying sadness and loneliness with hope and innocence, and anger and pain.

We are introduced to Leon, we see his mundane life, occasionally interspersed with acts of violence necessary for his career. His only friend is a pot plant, though he does have a relationship with his boss – a man who has a lot of respect for Leon, yet exploits him regardless. He lives alone in a flat. A few doors down is Mathilda who lives with her abusive father, alcoholic mother, and innocent younger brother. They have seen each other occasionally in the corridor. Mathilda’s father is in trouble with Oldman’s character, and he is killed along with his wife and son when Mathilda is shopping. She arrives home in the middle of the massacre, but saves herself by pleading that Leon lets her in. Leon’s life is turned upside down, torn between knowing he shouldn’t interfere but can’t let an innocent get hurt. Soon the two strike up an interesting friendship, each learning from the other and quickly becoming dependent on one another.

The film’s direction is often beautiful, and it complements the story perfectly, meaning that the tear-jerking scenes, action scenes, and everything else are all the more potent. Although the action is brilliant, it is the scenes between Leon and Mathilda which linger in the memory and raise the film into the top tier. There are many funny parts, most involving the fact that Leon has been outside of society for his entire life. Many critics mention a potential sexual relationship between the two, admittedly this could have occurred in the future, but by the end the most important thing is that they have found a special person who can give them hope. Although this is growing and reaching a wider audience it is still relatively little known, but it is a startling film which everyone should see.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Leon/The Professional!

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

Luc Besson shows again why he was one of the most stylish and innovative directors of the nineties with this effort. Bringing together a wildly varied cast, from action stars to stage actors to supermodels to cult heroes, and putting them in a genre defying film about the salvation of earth in the future, he gives one of the most visually impressive films of the era, as well as one of the most entertaining.

The story begins in the early 20th century with an archaeologist and friend uncovering proof of aliens, and of a mysterious fifth element, the only thing capable of saving the world from destruction. Aliens arrive and take the apparent device, leaving Luke Perry to pass on the secret through the generations. Flash forward a few centuries and we meet a group of scientists who have found the Fifth Element. It is a beautiful young woman, and half the galaxy is after her, including evil aliens, and the tyrannical Gary Oldman. The young woman escapes, only to literally crash into washed up taxi driver and ex soldier Bruce Willis. She speaks in an alien language, but together they find Ian Holm, a descendant of the original archaeologist. Thus begins a frantic race to save the world from an approaching black ball of shadow, while protecting the fifth element from capture.

The film has much to give- the sets, effects, and costumes are all wonderful, giving one of the best visions of the future since Blade Runner, and borrowing many ideas from such sci-fi classics. There are brilliant performances from all, though Oldman, Johovich, and Tucker stand out. The film is bursting with ideas and imagination, there are many funny moments, and the message that love can conquer all, though slightly glossy, is still relevant. At times bizarre, but always highly watchable, the Fifth Element is a film which everyone with a heart and soul should enjoy, or at least find something worthwhile in it.

This DVD has plenty of extras- intersting features on the production of the film, lots of trailers, interviews, and a commentary. A must have for sci-fi fans, and if you have a few pounds going spare this is one everyone should try.

As always, feel free to leave any comments on the movie. What do you make of the movie’s cast, effects, and vision of the future?