The Fifth Element (1997) – Review

3 Stars

The Fifth Element is Luc Besson’s grand operatic cinema experience. It’s a decidedly oddball mixture of science fiction and romance drama, with a European flair for off the wall humor. Bruce Willis anchors the film with the same detached amusement that he sensed audiences would feel as they went on this wild ride of a film. In fact, the entire film is full of off-beat casting choices, Chris Tucker as an afferent DJ; Tiny Tim Lester as the President; and Gary Oldman as a Texas oilman of the future. It’s all non-sensical but done with such style, beauty, and high-level craftsmanship that you forgive the film for its rudimentary storyline.

In the 23rd-century a great evil force is threatening humanity and the president of the United States. POTUS orders his general (Brion James) to enlist former soldier turned cabbie, Corbin Dallas (Bruce Willis), to find a way to stop the black darkness engulfing the world. Along the way, the reluctant Dallas finds himself involved with a fetching alien (Milla Jovovich) who may hold the key to saving the world.

As The Fifth Element has grown in cult status over the years I’ve always argued that Starship Troopers is the truly brilliant Sci-Fi spectacle of 1997. I guess I prefer director Paul Verhoeven satirical look at a nihilistic future more than the optimistically romantic vision that Besson has bathed the screen with here. The Fifth Element does contain one absolutely spellbinding scene in which an alien opera singer performs against a moon backdrop. It’s breathtaking. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is weighed down in a dopey love story between two actors with zero chemistry in Willis and Jovovich.

Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich

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