Film #202: Nikita (1990)

nikitaaka: La Femme Nikita (in America)
Director: Luc Besson
Language: French
Length: 115 minutes
Watched on: 29 June 2016

I watch new stuff all the time, and this was one of the few things I’ve watched recently that I’ve seen before. I’ve caught wind that there’s been an American remake of this movie much more recently, and a TV series, but this is the original by Luc Besson, following the story of a drug addict who is forced to become a secret agent for the French government.

The film is a good balance of some light and very, very dark humour (a sequence near the end with Jean Reno comes to mind), and a bit of action-thriller and romance thrown in. Ultimately it’s a very complex film and it’s entertaining. It shows Luc Besson’s talent developing strongly close to the beginning of his career – there are obvious signs of later films such as The Fifth Element.

Perhaps unfairly to the film, that’s not what I wanted to write about today. I last watched it during my year of films in 2008, and it was somewhat drowned out in the surrounding haze of other films – so watching it again this year I noticed a lot more than I remember from before. I paid a bit more attention during the opening sequence in the training facility, and the film felt more connected together – although as it is, it’s structured as separate episodes in Nikita’s life.

No, the main thing is that I noticed how utterly dated the movie feels now – especially things like the hairstyles and the contemporary idea of what a strong, confident woman should look like – a three year period disappears without so much as a montage, and Nikita comes back looking like a parody of late-80s/early-90s fashion. I think the last eight years since I watched the film have made all the difference, actually – now that the 90s is two decades ago, this movie 26 years old, such differences are more stark.

In exactly the same fashion, I rewatched two more of Besson’s movies recently, The Fifth Element and Leon – and also Trainspotting (I don’t want to re-review any of them, that would be overkill). None of them have dated quite as much, and it’s been less time since I watched them (Leon and Trainspotting were both in 2011, and The Fifth Element maybe two years ago) but I had to stifle a groan at some of Trainspotting’s soundtrack, which screams 90s from every corner.

Leon has also dated a bit, but perhaps just because the New York depicted is grimier than I’m used to seeing in other movies. The Fifth Element has hardly dated at all, of course, but there are references to 90s songs like All Night Long, and I reckon if it were made today it would look slicker and have more CGI. Incidentally, I did get the “ultimate edition” DVD of The Fifth Element, mainly to see the behind the scenes bits that I hadn’t seen before. The most interesting is the “full” Diva Dance without cutting back and forth to a fighting scene as happens in the movie itself.

Anyway, that’s all an aside – 90s atmosphere notwithstanding, Nikita is good and you should watch it too!

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