Luc Besson is one of France’s most famous directors. He’s responsible for a lot of well-known movies like the Taxi, Transporter and Banlieu 13 series, he wrote the story for From Paris with Love and the Fifth Element. When he had to wait for Bruce Willis (he was doing another movie) to start filming the Fifth Element, he decided to write a script, which resulted in Léon, a story about an assassin who unexpectedly ends up having to take care of a young girl.
The assassin is played by Jean Reno, an actor who Besson has cooperated with several times. Reno plays him like someone who is cold-blooded and plans each detail of his murderous actions meticulously. It does become clear that when it comes to other parts of his personality that he is not the brightest. He can’t read and write and is dependant on his boss for work and money. When the girl next door, Mathilda, ends up losing her family he has no choice but to allow her to enter his life and show her what kind of work he does. Mathilda is played by a very young Natalie Portman, who really impresses. She shows that she effortlessly can show various emotions and I’m not surprised that Besson picked her for the role after seeing her audition.
Mathilda wants revenge on Stansfield, who is played by Gary Oldman (with a totally crazy character which I loved), and asks Léon to train her to become an assassin herself. Although he first refuses to do so he changes his mind after she shows him how serious she is about it. The movie spends a lot of time showing the beginning of their strained relationship, accompanied by a lot of amazing music. The result of this is two main characters that you really care about. The movie also shows the feelings Mathilda starts to get for Leon, something which was deemed to controversial in the US, where these scenes were initially cut. The international version of the movie does have the scenes. Reno has said in an interview that he played the character in such a way that you just know he would never abuse the situation they are in and he did so successfully.
In my opinion Besson has made his masterpiece with Léon. It’s a movie without dull moments, deep characterisation and a wonderful story. I had forgotten how good this movie was and it is definitely a movie which I’ll watch again.
Interested in other movies which I’ve awarded a 10?
A complete list can be found here.