MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Fifth Element" Review


MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Fifth Element" Review

Movie Review: "The Fifth Element"

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes
Release Date: May 9, 1997
Directed by: Luc Besson
Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

Science-fiction movies are often somber or serious affairs. The stories in these films often involve life-threatening apocalyptic scenarios and heroes as big as the dangers they face. "The Fifth Element" keeps some serious elements while adding over-the-top action sequences and a comedic thread that is sure to keep younger moviegoers laughing for most of the film. This combination helps the movie stand the test of time as a great, if sometimes strange, exploration of a cosmopolitan future facing an apocalyptic threat.

"The Fifth Element" revolves around the life of flying-taxicab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis). Dallas's world is changed forever when Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) literally falls into his life. Leeloo is the ultimate warrior, destined to help the universe prevent Armageddon at the hands of a monstrous force that seeks to destroy all life every five thousand years. A priest named Father Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm) is one of the last of a line of religious followers who remember the legend of the five elements. A villain named Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) seeks to hasten the coming of the end and prevent the use of the elements. All of this action and sci-fi storytelling is interspersed with hilarious antics from Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker), a flamboyant interplanetary radio host.

Acting quality in "The Fifth Element" ranges from excellent, believable performances to seemingly intentional cardboard-cutout stereotyping. Willis reprises the role of a cynical man who is down on his luck but has the opportunity to change everything. Jovovich creates an amazing character despite having only a few words with which to communicate for the bulk of the film. Holm does a passable job as a priest of an ancient line, though his dialogue may seem strangely campy and more humorous than intended at times. Oldman portrays a stereotypical mustache-twirling villain without much obvious depth at all. Tucker's character, Ruby Rhod, is undeveloped, but his purpose is to provide comic relief, so Tucker fills the role well.

The cinematography in the film is one of its many praise-worthy elements. Dallas lives in a congested "Blade Runner"-style future where aliens run fast-food stands and flying taxicabs are a common sight. The aliens, fashions, and other strange futuristic or otherworldly elements are captured with excellent lighting. Seamless transitions are used to switch quickly between scenes set in vibrant, crowded environments or the cold darkness of space. Special-effect elements, including the film's ultimate evil, are tackled with skill and a sense of elegance that combines 1980s action with a more serious science-fiction style. This sets a standard that likely influenced movies for years to come. Camera angles are used for both dramatic effect and humorous delivery, making the most out of the film medium that's used to tell the tale.

Luc Besson both wrote and directed "The Fifth Element," and the writing is one area in which the film struggles at times. The plot is fairly straightforward, with only a few twists to keep the audience guessing. Dialogue ranges from intense to hilarious. Even the most dramatic scenes can be hard to take seriously after the barrage of humor provided by Father Cornelius and Ruby Rhod. Each character adds his or her own unique touch to the film. The pacing is relentless, barreling on through each scene and encompassing both the action and sci-fi comedic elements very skillfully.

Besson's direction is another area in which the movie proves its worth. The director seems to get the most out of his actors, whether they're portraying well-rounded characters or more flat versions of common sci-fi tropes. The casting decision is spot-on; each of the characters fills his or her niche perfectly. The movie's enjoyable pacing may also be based on the cinematography and Besson's directing as well as his scriptwriting. The director balances light and darkness in stark contrast throughout the film, both literally and metaphorically, creating an interesting juxtaposition for moviegoers to enjoy.

"The Fifth Element" is a great blend of science-fiction action, adventure, and comedy. It is sure to find a home amongst fans of both over-the-top sci-fi and buddy cop movies, the last owing heavily to the relationship between Ruby Rhod and Korben Dallas. The darker aspects of the film are few and far-between, as the director clearly chooses to focus on the comedic elements instead of the potential seriousness of the overarching storyline. The movie makes a great choice for a night out with friends or an evening on the couch with family.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5