Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric
Watch The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec online in the UK: Amazon Prime Video / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
It’s a long-held truth in movies that journalists are never depicted realistically. Apart from rare exceptions, such as Spotlight and All the Presidents Men, they present reporters as wealthy and able to fund extravagant trips, sleazy hacks screwing people over to get ahead, or worthy and noble underdogs in a battle against the system. In the case of Adèle Blanc-Sec, though, journalists aren’t likely to complain.
The star Jacques Tardi’s comic books from the 1970s, she’s an intrepid explorer with more in common with Indiana Jones than Woodward and Bernstein. She doesn’t write: she capers. And what capers they are, as her adventures whisk us all the way from Belle Epoque Paris to ancient Egypt, not to mention dinosaurs and mummies. Director Luc Besson brings the smorgasbord of silliness to life with a hyperactive imagination that perfectly suits the material – it’s telling that this isn’t the first time he’s been inspired by graphic novels and comic strips. And there’s a breathless excitement that recalls The Fifth Element, as you sit back and watch what on earth the director will capture on camera next.
Louise Bourgoin is wonderfully charming in the central role, confidently striding through the chaos with a determined focus. Her aim? To resurrect an old Pharaoh’s doctor to heal her sister (who was injured severely in, of all things, a game of tennis). But that requires her talking to Professor Espérandieu, who’s just accidentally hatched a pterosaur egg ear the Eiffel Tower, and outsmarting her nemesis, the sinister Professor Dieuleveult (Amalric).
The latter makes his appearance in an entertaining opening sequence, where the film most obviously echoes Indiana Jones – Dieuleveult slithers onto screen with a disfigured face, intimidating sunglasses and a rather large hat. (Mathieu Amalric, it goes without saying, is having the time of his life.) He doesn’t feel that relevant to the rest of the tale, as Adèle then finds herself evading the pursuit of a bumbling police inspector, whose moustache is bigger than his intellect. Indeed, there’s hardly a convincing structure to the mish-mash of ideas and set pieces, which occasionally veer towards the derivative, the disorganised or the deliberately quirky. But it’s easy to think of recent cinematic outings and forget just how far back the source material dates – and if it’s a case of style of substance, what style it is! The period is brought to life with fantastic sets and CGI, while the costume design is stupendous.
“A pyramid would be quite nice here,” muses a mummy, dressed in an impeccably tailored suit and standing in the courtyard of the Louvre. It’s hard to dislike any movie with such absurd revelry in the impossible – and Bourgoin’s lively presence anchors the whimsical fantasy with a boundless enthusiasm. (Watching her attempt to break Espérandieu out of prison is a joy in itself.)
Outrageous yet far from overblown, the result is haphazard, but hugely enjoyable – a reminder that even the most ambitious comic book movies don’t have to be gargantuan Marvel blockbusters. It’s the least accurate portrayal of journalism on screen since Tintin, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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