Luc Besson has made some excellent films in his time, and this entry on the 101 Action Movies list could be argued as his best.
Anne Parillaud stars as Nikita, we first meet her as a drugged out, worn down, punk, who gets busted after killing a cop in a pharmacy robbery that goes wrong. Believing she is being given a lethal injection, Nikita pleads for her mother before plunging into darkness. Instead of heaven or hell, she wakes up in a spartan cell, where she is offered a choice by Bob (Tcheky Karyo), train and work for the government, or end up in the cemetery plot everyone already believes she inhabits.
After a botched escape attempt she agrees, and despite threats from the higher-ups, Nikita, now Marie, trains to be the best she can. She slowly transforms from angry girl to woman assassin (trained in violence and exploiting her femininity and) shown wonderfully in the transformation of her room but best shown on her night out with Bob on her 23rd birthday, and the assignment she’s given.
From there, she’s released to set up her life, and await her call and assignments.
Marie tries to find her way in the big world as an adult (best shown in the supermarket sequence where she tails a woman to watch what she buys, and then does the same). It is here that she meets Marco (Jean-Hughes Anglade), and a playful, earnest, and loving relationship develops.
But before she or we can forget what she really is, and who she is in service to, assignments start coming in, trying and tying her personal and professional life together.
Bob resurfaces constantly to mess with her life, despite the fact that it’s obvious the two care for one another, and when an assignment goes sideways, Victor (Jean Reno) the cleaner arrives to make more of a muck-up of things.
Using a synth score by Eric Serra that serves the film perfectly, Besson has crafted a sleek action thriller with heart, and one that also lets the lead embrace the despair the character is going through as the choices she has to make our forced upon her one after another until she finally makes a decision for herself.
There are some brilliant sequences throughout the run of the film, the training sequences, the restaurant battle, the Venice assassination, the embassy, and of course Victor – the man was a mad dog!!
Every time I watch this one, I am constantly reminded of how good it is. You know it’s good, you remember it being good, and then you watch it and realize it’s really good!
Do you have a favorite Luc Besson movie? (Which I’m aware I asked for Le Dernier Combat, but have you seen his list of writing and directing credits??)