out of Five
Running time: 107
Impressively directed and beautifully designed, this is a highly entertaining and frequently funny action-adventure romp with a witty script, great special effects and a terrific central performance from rising star Louise Bourgoin.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Luc Besson, Adele Blanc-Sec is based on the French comic books by Jacques Tardi (actually a combination of the plots from volumes 1 and 4, French comic book fans) and stars Louise Bourgoin as novelist Adele Blanc-Sec, an Indiana Jones-style adventuress who travels the world in search of thrilling material for her books. Set in 1911, the film opens with Adele stealing a physician's mummy in Egypt and escaping from under the nose of her arch-nemesis Dieuleveult (an unrecognisable Mathieu Amalric), after which she returns to Paris, where she's hoping her mad scientist friend Esperandieu (Jacky Nercessian) can unlock the mummy's secrets and cure her catatonic younger sister (Laure de Clermont).
However, Esperandieu's practice experiments have resulted in the resurrection of a hatchling pterodactyl, which is now terrorising the streets of Paris. With the government, a big-game hunter (Jean-Paul Rouve) and bumbling cop Inspector Caponi (an unrecognisable Gilles Lellouche) all helpless, Adele realises she'll have to take care of the pterodactyl herself.
Rising star Louise Bourgoin is wonderful as Adele, creating a hugely appealing, gloriously independent, no-nonsense character who's feisty, fearless and seemingly unflappable, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous and effortlessly sexy. There's also strong comic support from de Clermont (superb in a brilliantly directed flashback scene that's not in the books) and Lellouche (very funny as a sort of proto-Clouseau), though Amalric is weirdly under-used as arch-villain Dieuleveult, as if the madcap plot is just too busy to fit him in.
The special effects are excellent (particularly on the utterly delightful mummies) and the witty script crackles with the sort of idiosyncratic, catchphrase-laden dialogue (“Minute, papillon!”) that will make you wish you spoke French. In addition, the production design is extremely impressive and highly detailed.
Besson obviously has a lot of love for the original books, recreating several memorable scenes and moments from Tardi's pages, most notably a striking image of Adele smoking in her bath. He also maintains a cracking pace throughout and orchestrates some terrific action sequences; the escape sequence in Egypt is a particular highlight.
This is utterly delightful from start to finish, thanks to a witty script, gorgeous production design, enjoyably pacey direction and a wonderful performance from Louise Bourgoin. Highly recommended and one of the best films of the year. Don't leave before the end credits.