films seen
15
average score
3.33*
nationality
France - 63 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

Luc Besson did wonders for French commercial/genre cinema. His ability to mix pure genre elements and blockbuster aesthetics is quite unique and because he rarely works in the same genre, his oeuvre is as versatile as they come.

Rare treats

Angel-A

2005 / 88m - France
Romance
Angel-A poster

From the outside it may appear a little stuffy (French, black and white photography, jazzy music), but underneath that layer of arthouse polish lies an entertaining, smart and refreshing little film.

The Professional

Leon
1994 / 136m - France
Drama, Crime
The Professional poster

The film has aged surprisingly well. The action scenes are still amazing, Reno and Portman continue to impress and there's an edgy playfulness that keeps the film from becoming overly serious.

The good stuff

The Fifth Element

1997 / 126m - France
Comedy, Sci-fi
The Fifth Element poster

If only Besson had bet a little less on the special effects. Almost 20 years later they have lost much of their shine, leaving the film looking a bit cheaper than intended.

The Last Battle

Le Dernier Combat
1983 / 92m - France
Sci-fi
4.0*/5.0*
The Last Battle poster

Solid pieces

Lucy

2014 / 89m - France
Sci-fi, Action
3.5*/5.0*
Lucy poster

It's been a while since Luc Besson made a truly great film (that would be Angel-A in 2005) and Lucy isn't the film to end Besson's brave quest for renewed excellence. But it is the best film he has made in a long time and it's not unlike Besson's own The Fifth Element: a colorful sci-fi flick that may look like a crowd-pleaser from afar, but delivers exactly the opposite.

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Lucy isn't an easy film to explain as it constantly hides between ideas and pretences it doesn't really care about. In essence, it's just a crazy roller coaster that aims to amuse and to incite wonder. To accomplish that, Besson digs up an old (and popular) scientific misinterpretation and goes from there. He dresses up the original theory with layer upon layer of scientific half-truths and uses that increasingly silly premise to have a little sci-fi fun.

The premise that humans only use 10 to 15% of their brain has been dismantled years ago, but that's not important. The point is that it's the kind of premise that makes people gaze up into the sky, maybe take a sip of their whiskey and has them pondering out loud about what humanity could be capable of if we unlocked our brain's full potential. It's the kind of premise that, when brought up in a film, asks for a "meaningful philosophical exploration" of the subject, possibly assisted by some equally thoughtful quotes and existential meanderings.

But no, Besson runs with the premise, states that the extra brain power will allow us to control our own body, other people's bodies, all matter and finally time itself, feeds his main character a drug that miraculously unleashes her brain's true potential and spirals everything into a gleeful mix of high-octane action and outrageous sci-fi, including big and bold percentage statistics in between the various stages of evolution. That's a big bummer for people who were already stroking their chin in anticipation, but it's all the more fun for people like me who enjoy the grotesque and shameless direction this film takes.

The premise of the film has another interesting side effect. Since Lucy becomes super powerful mere minutes after she has taken the drugs, there really isn't anyone on this planet who can stop her. So even though there are a few nifty action sequences, there's never any real threat from the bad guys or any sense of urgency besides the fact that Lucy has a limited time to live. Again Besson crushes the expectations of the audience, working his way to an almost Akira-like finale.

The final blow is probably Johansson's performance. As the film progresses she quickly loses her (presumed - I'm not a fan) charm and becomes this blank-eyed, transcendent, super-rational entity. Instead of this charming, sexy, ultra-cool killer you're looking at an omniscient, omnipotent god-like creature who doesn't give a damn about who's after her, only interested in sharing the knowledge she's gaining before she burns up.

Sadly Besson misses the mark when things get truly frantic. The CG isn't really up to par and the aesthetic qualities of the sci-fi bits are a bit meagre. While the idea and direction of the film is amazing, the execution isn't on the same level. That's my only real complaint. Besides that Lucy is a hell of a ride, though you have to be prepared to follow Besson's path rather than get stuck in your own preconceptions of where Besson should've taken this material.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
2010 / 107m - France
Fantasy, Action, Adventure
3.5*/5.0*
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec poster

The inoffensive

Anna

2019 / 119m - France
Action, Thriller
3.0*/5.0*
Anna poster

Call it an unofficial remake of Besson's own Nikita. While amusing in its own right, the film adds very little to the bottom line of the genre. A few well-executed action scenes make it worth your while, some predictable and contrived twists take away some of that fun. It's decent filler, but with Besson behind the camera you'd be excused for wanting a little extra.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

2017 / 137m - France
Sci-fi, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
3.0*/5.0*
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets poster

The Family

Malavita
2013 / 111m - USA
Comedy, Thriller, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
The Family poster

The Lady

2011 / 132m - France
Drama
3.0*/5.0*
The Lady poster

Arthur and the Invisibles

Arthur et les Minimoys
2006 / 94m - France
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
3.0*/5.0*
Arthur and the Invisibles poster

Nikita

La Femme Nikita
1990 / 117m - France
Action, Thriller
3.0*/5.0*
Nikita poster

Subway

1985 / 104m - France
Comedy, Crime
3.0*/5.0*
Subway poster

Luc Besson's second feature film. A fun and whimsical crime story in the subway of Paris, that maintains a light vibe throughout. Some familiar faces (I never even new Christopher Lambert was French), a wayward narrative and an interesting blend of genres makes this a fun little diversion.

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Fred it being chased by some hardened criminals, after blowing their boss' vault. He finally loses them in the Paris subway, but doesn't dare to come out again. In the underground tunnels he meets up with some of society's rejects and decides to stick around for a while. The only thing that gets Fred to leave his hideout is Héléna, an alluring woman.

The most interesting thing about Subway is that it doesn't have a set narrative or clear plot. It's basically just Fred being chased in the subway and meeting up with some weird fellas, while passing the time as he tries to figure out where to go with his life. The soundtrack is decent, the cinematography is playful, and the performances are pretty light and fun. A solid Besson.

Worthy but flawed

Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds

Arthur et la Guerre des Deux Mondes
2010 / 101m - France
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
2.5*/5.0*
Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds poster

Arthur and the Great Adventure

Arthur et la Vengeance de Maltazard
2009 / 107m - France
Fantasy, Adventure, Animation
2.5*/5.0*
Arthur and the Great Adventure poster