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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 08.05.08] post apocalyptic

Year: 1983
Director: Luc Besson
Writers: Pierre Jolivet/Luc Besson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Amazon: link
Review by: Christopher Webster
Rating: 9 out of 10

Before dazzling us with genre favorites like Subway, Nikita, The Professional, and The Fifth Element, Luc Besson made a full length post-apocalyptic film called Le Dernier Combat in 1983. Beautifully shot in black and white and without a lick of dialog, Le Dernier Combat is not only one of the most interesting films of the genre, but one of the most striking works of art I've seen in a really long time. Seriously, what is it with French directors and their ability to harness all the cliches of a certain genre (which in the case of PA read as; mystery, adventure, horror, action, suspense, etc) without ever loosing sight of the work's artistic aspirations? Well anyway, watching Le Dernier Combat again last night reminded me of why I fell in love with Besson's work in the first place, and I was shocked when I logged into Quiet Earth to read up on it further only to discover that a review of it has yet to be logged(even though both quietearth and myself own a copy). So now, in the interest of keeping Quiet Earth the premiere PA site online, I'm determined to rectify this grievous of PA fan sins and share my thoughts with the masses in yet another "retro review."

But before we talk about the plot, lets get into the film's visuals. The thing that struck me most when I watched Le Dernier Combat for the very first time is how expertly it's been shot. Since seeing Besson's subterranean punk rock flick, Subway, I always envisioned the director as being much more of a reckless filmmaker, but the composition here is pretty exquisite for a first feature. As I stated in the opening, the film is devoid of dialog and relies almost entirely on pantomime and folly to tell its story. I can only imagine this forced Besson to focus on visual clarity as a means of telling a compelling story and so the films comes across as quite painterly. In fact, the movie contains so many well composed shots that I found hard narrowing down stills to include in this review.

Those a little less versed in post apocalyptic cinema have a tendency to call Le Dernier Combat a 'French Mad Max 2' or, even worse, a 'rip off.' The rest of us know that Mad Max was hardly the first "loner in a wasteland" film (I mean, A Boy and his Dog came out is '75 for goodness sake) so we're a little less inclined to write it off as such. The story however is indeed a simple one (though not nearly as simple as I was expecting it to be considering it was a pretty tight budgeted flick) and is as follows:

An unnamed character (credited as "The Man") lives in a long dead office building surrounded on all sides by endless sand. He spends his nights cannibalizing old cars in the parkade for parts for his makeshift airplane, and his days battling a gang of thugs that live among the dunes. Eventually, "the man" makes it out of his glass prison and into the air, hoping to find civilization somewhere beyond the deadlands. Of course, what he eventually finds are the seemingly deserted remains of another dead city. After exploring the city and discovering a couple very strange events (like a fish rainstorm?) He eventually comes across two men, an ultra-violent giant who almost kills him in a bloody brawl (played, of course, by the inimitable Jean Reno), and an old doctor who has blockaded himself into an abandoned hospital. Together, the man and the doctor help each other overcome the rampages of "the brute", in order to protect the last remnants of civilization and humanity.

Besides looking absolutely stellar, Le Dernier Combat also features a trio of amazing performances from Jean Reno, Jean Bouise and, of course, Pierre Jolivet who plays "the man." In fact, Jolivet handles his role very similarly to how Bruno Lawrence handles his own last man on earth character in the amazing Quiet Earth. There's even a scene where Jolivet drinks his way through a fully stocked bar that reminded me very much of that grotesquely decadent scene in Quiet Earth where Bruno Lawrence gets pissed wearing womens cloths, pretending to be a dictator and carrying around a shotgun. Now that's the good stuff baby.

So basically, for a beautifully realized and thought provoking post-apocalyptic flick that'll appeal to your intellect as much as to your unquenchable thirst for dire and unrelenting post-apocalyptic cinema, look no further than Luc Besson's wonderful Le Dernier Combat.

Recommended Release: Le Dernier Combat (region free steelbook)

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Wilcoy (13 years ago) Reply

Great movie! I saw it for the first time last year and it's a wonderful bit of movie making and great acting. This is a must see if you're a fan of the PA genre. I'm still trying to figure out though how the sky rains fish and sometimes rocks and boulders? A lot of fun to watch and great review.


projectcyclops (13 years ago) Reply

Great review man. I'll have to track down a copy of this.


Mathew F. Riley (13 years ago) Reply

Just watched this and foud it absorbing and full of subtle comedy - especially Reno's (apparently) bungling attempts to gain entry to the hopsital. The background noise of a ravaged planet was also a highlight for me.

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