Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic battles, a rape and language

Reviewed by: Maggi

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Teen to Adult
2 hr. 10 min.

Starring: Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Timothy West | Director: Luc Besson | Writers: Luc Besson, Andrew Birkin | Distributor: Columbia Tristar

Don’t miss Ronald F. Maxwell’s* in-depth historical commentary.
*“Gettysburg” writer/director

Image from The Messenger

Six months has been my waiting period to eagerly view “The Messenger”. I was so excited to finally see a recent feature film created around Joan of Arc. I was even more excited to here that cast members included John Malcovich and Dustin Hoffman (two very fine actors). After several long months of high expectations, I was sorely disappointed in this attempt seen in “The Messenger”. I feel as if I just wasted six months of my life waiting to see a lie, and one that mocks the Christian faith as well.

Scene from The Messenger
Desmond Harrington, John Malkovich, John Merrick and Christian Erickson

Firstly, “The Messenger” included unnecessary violence. For example, Joan’s sister is murdered and then raped. I have read and seen many documentaries about Joan of Arc and never heard of any rape taking place, which leads me to believe that this did not happen. The movie also has war-related violence, but that is understandable as war is indeed violent and gruesome. There are also some odd visions of Joan that include winds blowing as packs of wolves. Don’t ask me to explain that vision, though. I’m still trying to figure out the significance of it.

Not once is Joan of Arc shown as being visited by specific saints, nor does “The Messenger” concentrate on Joan’s strong faith in Christ. Some other offensive language includes an army member using profanity, including the off-color “f” exclamation. Joan is also referred to as a “b*tch” several times.

She is portrayed as a psychotic nut case, instead of the young woman of God that she was. In many scenes she looks and acts as if she should be in a mental institution. History says that when Joan was burned, she didn’t move at all. It was as if she didn’t feel the fire. Right before she died, she yelled out the name of Jesus. At that time, one of her executioners states “My God, we just killed a saint.” Sadly, all of this was conveniently ignored.

Confusion reigns during much of the film. Dustin Hoffman’s character makes it hard to distinguish whether he is an angel of the Lord of Satan himself. Joan of Arc appears in one scene as a woman of God, and in the next as a mental patient. Further, the acting was terrible. Why was Milla Jovovich chosen to portray Joan? She simply failed. Joan Malcovich and Dustin Hoffman give semi-decent performances, but their characters are so unbelievable that one could care less about their acting ability.

As a Christian, who was raised as a Catholic, I was highly offended. “The Messenger” is nothing but a pack of lies. I am just pleased that I did not take any of my non-Christian friends along on this one. They may be left with the impression that Joan is a pawn of Satan rather than of God. Of much higher recommendation would be the TV miniseries, now available on video.

Year of Release—1999

Viewer Comments

Don’t miss Ronald F. Maxwell’s* in-depth historical commentary.
*“Gettysburg” writer/director

sickening… I saw this movie a few months ago with a close friend and my sister, who are both Christians. My friend was really looking forward to seeing it, she loves Joan of Arc. Unfortunately, it was offending and had very non-Christian views. We left half-way through having already gotten to the point where we knew it wouldn’t get any better. It left us feeling sick to our stomachs and relieved that we hadn’t gone to this movie with any of our non-Christian friends. Christ was portrayed as a cold and unloving person and not all there psychologically. No wonder some of my friends aren’t interested in getting saved or knowing God. There was a scene in it where Joan says she wants to be one with Christ, now, and goes back to the local church, where she proceeds to drink what looks like blood. It trails down her face and makes her look insane. I also remember the scene where she witnesses her sister being murdered then raped. It was very graphic and unnecessary. The war scenes were very graphic, also. I will say one thing for it though (after really searching the movie for good things) I really liked the parts where Joan kept telling one of the men not to swear and take God’s name in vain. It also didn’t show her as a perfect person, like I think of some highly remembered Christians in the past, she had problems with anger and authorities. One last thing, it is much more satisfying to watch the TV mini-series, which was more accurate, historically and 10X’s cleaner. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Rachel, age 18
a total distortion… This AntiChristian movie attacks: God (and Jesus), The church, The saints, Faith, Confession, Resurrection and so many others. I observed the complete absence of a Loving Jesus which should have been the most present in this movie. Instead it shows saints and men of faith to be psychologically sick and defenseless left behind like orphans and eventually ending dead. The visions and the background music were those of horror movies having nothing to do with the peace Jesus gives. What about the actor of Jesus they chose! They are trying to distort the true beauty of Jesus’s face. And the surrender of Joan to Satan was the climax of blasphemy to God that this movie offers. While on the contrary our God and Savior is a God of peace, He never leaves us and the Holy Spirit counsels us and gives us courage. I personally am sure that St. Joan of arc had this faith with her and died happily to be in reunion with Christ. May no one try to blur this image. Amen! My Ratings: [1/3]
—Elmayan Krikor, age 25
“horrible”… “The Messenger” was one of the most horrible movies that I have ever seen. Not only was the acting bad, but I couldn’t help but wonder how someone could dream up such a demented twist to a decent story. After seeing this movie, my husband and I decided that we are going to be much more careful about our movie selections in the future. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Krista, age 24
“a big slap in the face”… I was terribly disappointed with this movie! They turned Joan into a sniveling, wimpy idiot. And Christ is portrayed as a cold-eyed fiend. In the end, the movie leaves you with the impression that she was indeed justifiably burned at the stake for heresy. This film was a big slap in the face for anyone who truly believes that God speaks to his people. My Ratings: [1/4]
—JR, age 39
“a waste of money”… Lies, sensationalism, unnecessary graphic violence (worse than “Braveheart”, if you can imagine it), and the use of the f*** word which wasn’t even a word when Joan was alive (my dictionary says late 15th century—Joan died in 1431). Put bluntly, what a waste of money. One upside, Dustin Hoffman was cool. But I think he’s cool in every role he plays, so I’m discounting that. My real rating would be 0/½, but the worst I can select is 1/1. Go see “Braveheart”, at least it’s more historically accurate. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Carl Fuglein, age 52
“it stunk”… I saw one of the first Joan of Arc movies that was done in the 40’s or 50’s that was terrific. It seems to me that Hollyweird would do just about anything to discredit the faith, and make anyone who believes look like a fool. The boobtube version of her life is an exception to the rule. Don’t waste your money or time with this one… My Ratings: [1½/2½]
—Terry May, age 32
“twisted”… A disgustingly twisted portrayal of an inherently Christian historical account! “The Messenger” was filled with both anti-Christian themes and blatant mockery of the Holy Spirit. Prior to my encounter with this bizarre tale of filth, I had been quite anxious to see it. However, I left with nothing even half-way positive to say about it. I was appalled at the murder and after-death rape of Joan’s sister, and am convinced that it was included only to feed society’s hunger for immorality. Furthermore, the images of Jesus Christ actually scared me. Instead of depicting him as the loving Savior that he is, the movie depicted him as being hardened, freaky, and evil-looking, as if he were possessed by demons! Moreover, in this version, Joan showed herself to be more deranged than chosen by God. She acted as though she were on the verge of insanity, or closer. I’m not surprised at this manifestation of society’s feelings about supernatural happenings. Rather than the title referring to a messenger of God, I’d have to interpret it as the media sending out the message that Christians are delusional liars. Overall, this movie made me sick, and I was ashamed to watch it with two of my non-Christian friends. I do not recommend this to anyone wishing to view an accurate portrayal of a beautiful history. My Ratings: [1/2]
—Meredith Stoughton, age 20
admirable performances… While I certainly wasn’t enthralled by Luc Besson’s latest effort, I am astonished that people were expecting a film to bolster their faith. Though the film might not portray every historical nuance accurately, Joan of Arc is not known as one of the great women of the Christian faith; most think her a delusional, but charismatic young woman. With that in view, I think both Milla Jovovich and Luc Besson have performed admirably the task of presenting a borderline-psychotic young lady with an incredible imagination. Joan of Arc may or may not have had a true Christian faith, but the visions she “saw” and voices she “heard” were not likely of Divine origin—never, with the notable exception of pre-exilic Israel, is God ever shown in Scripture to take an audible stand for one nation over another. In the New Testament, when God does speak through visions or dreams, it is ALWAYS for the furtherance of the Gospel and not for a political victory of a Godless nation. And well, two points on the upside: the cinematography was sweepingly gorgeous and Dustin Hoffman’s angel of the Lord (whether from God or Joan’s own fritzed mind) did work miraculously to demonstrate to Joan her own false piety and sinfulness. My Ratings: [2½/3½]
—Seth T. Hahne, age 26
“filth”… I agree with the review. I haven’t walked out on a movie in a long time, but I left this one. I don’t understand why Christ is portrayed as an unblinking, silent, creepy figure, and Satan (as I am assuming that’s the role Dustin Hoffman was playing) was very personable. I stayed until Joan was confessed by Satan. At that point I left and prayed that God would forgive me for watching such filth. My Ratings: [1/1]
—Amy, age 27
“Disturbing”… This film intensely disturbed me. The violence was graphic (reminded me of battle scenes in “Braveheart”) and the murder/rape scene of Joan’s sister was horrible. But the most affecting images were the images of Christ Joan saw. He appeared freaky, almost evil, and there is a scene where his face melts into a screaming mask of blood. Though the film did raise some worthwhile questions about how a person discerns God’s will and how He chooses to work His will through people, it wasn’t worth seeing the disturbing images in the movie. I felt unclean after watching it and hope you spend your money on another film. I wish I had. My Ratings: [1½/1½]
—Josephine, age 21
“bereft of hope”… I couldn’t agree with Ron Maxwell more. Nothing more needs to be said, and I wouldn’t go waiting for a reviewer to talk about this film. Mr. Maxwell has said all that needs to be said about this hopeless (as in bereft of hope, not poor filmaking) film. This version left me asking the question, why would this Joan have gone to the stake? Go rent the CBS television version starring Leelee Sobieski. One last thought on this movie: “A miracle is an event which creates faith. That is the purpose and nature of miracles—frauds deceive. An event which creates faith does not deceive: therefore it is not a fraud, but a miracle.”—George Bernard Shaw. “The Messenger” doesn’t create faith, and so if you’re looking to be inspired, steer clear of this stinker. My Ratings: [2/3]
—Mike Perschon, age 28
“a slanted commentary”… I was very interested in seeing this movie. However, I was infuriated over the lack of adherence to historical facts. This doesn’t even qualify as a docu-drama. Joan was portrayed as an ignorant, obsessed young woman with schizophrenic traits. At best this movie was a slanted commentary on political intrigue between the 15th century church and government. The only message it carries regarding the Christian faith is devotion should be considered excessive religiousness and a danger to both person and community. My Ratings: [2/3]
—Mark Dawson, age 50
should have walked out… I had the chance to walk out on this movie. I was with a date, however, so I stuck it out for her sake. I kept watching, hoping to find some aspect that I enjoyed. I never did. Later, my date confided to me that she also wanted to walk out, but figured I wanted to stick around. We have vowed that from now on, when we feel God is urging us to walk out on a movie, we will. And when it comes to sticking around for some great ending, the end does not justify the means.