|The Fifth Element
1997 - PG-13 - 126 Mins.
|Director: Luc Besson
|Producer: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
|Written By: Patrice Ledoux
|Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich and Chris Tucker
|Review by: Bill King
Far too underrated and deserving of more praise, Luc Besson's dream project "The Fifth Element" is a wildly entertaining and visually stunning piece of eye candy. This is one of the best looking films I've ever seen. It competed in the special effects Academy Award category with "Titanic" (which won), but I've always felt this movie should have taken home Oscar. "Titanic"'s compelling drama made its special effects hit with greater impact. If you judge the two films strictly on how they look, Besson's effort is more spectacular.
Our lawsuit against the producers of "Run Lola Run" for stealing your look is almost complete."
There's more to this movie than great visuals. Besson's story originated during his younger days when he traveled with his parents, when he spent much of his time dreaming up stories to alleviate his boredom. Combining a strong sense of storytelling with interesting premises, he directed "La Femme Nikita" and "Leon - The Professional," two superior action films from the '90s. His flair for over-the-top action came to good use in The Fifth Element, and his script is every bit as exciting as his previous efforts.
In the early 1900s, an archeological dig in Egypt uncovers the secret to how Evil will reign destruction upon the earth. An alien ship shows up to protect its secret. The unnamed aliens are part of a great race dedicated to protecting the cosmos. They take with them four stones from the dig that represent each of the four elements, but according to the writings in the tomb, a fifth element is necessary to complete a weapon capable of destroying Evil. They will return at a much-later time, when Evil shows itself, as it does every 5000 years.
That's when we jump forward 300 years to the future and witness an amazing display of high-rise buildings and hovering vehicles. This place looks like a larger, cleaner and busier version of the city in "Blade Runner." This is where Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a retired military leader who is now driving a cab, makes a living. Down on his luck and with a nearly revoked driver's license, Dallas lives in a small studio apartment where all the necessities are tucked away in little storage spaces. Through an amazing coincidence, he runs into Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), a member of the alien race that has returned to help battle the Evil that is coming to earth. Evil is a giant planet hurtling towards earth, but Leeloo's spaceship was intercepted by mercenaries and now her time has been cut short.
Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm) is a monk who has been awaiting her arrival. She is The Fifth Element necessary to complete the weapon to destroy Evil. Now all that's left is to find the four stones. Dallas isn't up to the task at first, but his old boss General Munro (the late Brion James) pulls him out of retirement. Meanwhile, Zorg (Gary Oldman) is a megalomaniac desperate to find the stones for his own purposes. He hired the mercenaries that attacked Leeloo's ship, but after a double-cross, they have turned against him and are after the stones for themselves.
Besson directs his story with tremendous energy. Fast-paced action scenes and humorous dialogue punctuate the exposition, and it is all incorporated seamlessly into satisfying whole. Bruce Willis is once again at home in an action movie. He has all the confidence of John McClane, though not the penchant for wisecracks. Gary Oldman makes an eccentric villain, chewing the scenery as only he can. He previously starred in Besson's "Leon - The Professional," and his Zorg character plays like a futuristic version of his character in that film. Milla Jovovich has the toughest job. Much of her dialogue is of a language that Besson invented for the film. She speaks this "divine" language with all the determination of a foreigner trying to communicate desperately.
The one sore spot in the film is Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod, a flamboyant disc jockey whose hyperkinetic style really irritates. He has a few funny moments, but otherwise his inclusion, or at least his attitude, is a complete mystery. Drop him from the movie, and "The Fifth Element" is even more enjoyable. Such as it is, I still admire this film greatly. It has lots of exciting action, a good story and wonderful visuals. Here is a film that deserves a second look, especially if you have a home theater.