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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Le Dernier Combat
Le Dernier Combat
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // August 21, 2001
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 2, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Many films that explore the same themes as Le Dernier Combat kick off with a montage of clips detailing the twilight of civilization, often with a gravelly-voiced narrator relating the events that led to mankind to such a sorry state of being. That's not the case with this, the feature-length debut from acclaimed director Luc Besson and an expanded remake of an earlier Besson short. The beautifully shot black and white film doesn't have a single word of dialogue, and I suppose at this point in the review that many of my readers are frantically closing their web browsers. Le Dernier Combat is not the inaccessible experiment from an untested director that it may seem to be on paper. Although it's admittedly a far cry from the colorful, bouncy sci-fi approach of Besson's The Fifth Element, the director's only other sci-fi entry, this intelligent, thought provoking film deserves to seen.

Le Dernier Combat tosses the viewer in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world, not set in any clearly defined time period or any easily identifiable place. Mankind has reverted to a sort of neo-barbarism, doing what it can with the remnants of days past. A nameless, inventive loner ekes out a life in a ravaged building, constructing a primitive plane to escape his desolate surroundings and the gang of savages that torments him. His quest unexpectedly brings him to an abandoned prison, the home of an old doctor and a constant frustration for an unrelenting heavy played by Besson mainstay Jean Reno. The doctor nurses the loner back to health after a brutal attack by Reno's character, and the two quickly bond. However, things aren't quite as idyllic as the two new friends would hope...

Creating an engaging feature-length film lacking a single utterance of dialogue is quite a challenge, but Besson and his immensely talented cast and crew pull off this seemingly impossible task without a hitch. There are no "clever" one-liners or glossy special effects here -- just skilled craftsmanship and solid storytelling. Despite a budget that would scarcely cover catering for most Hollywood productions, this post-apocalyptic world remains believable throughout, never for a moment seeming like a grip is leaning on a plywood set and eating a sandwich a few inches to the left of the frame. Because of the lack of dialogue and the absence of special effects, Le Dernier Combat has a universal, timeless quality to it, holding up remarkably well after all of these years. Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video has given this wonderful film the spectacular presentation on DVD that it richly deserves.

Video: The quality of the 2.35:1 anamorphic image is amazing, and I can't really imagine Le Dernier Combat ever looking significantly better than this. There are no print flaws worth mentioning, nor are dust and specks present to any more appreciable an extent than one would expect from a film of its age. As sharp as the black and white image is, there's no evidence of any edge enhancement whatsoever. Shadow detail and contrast are both excellent, with deep black levels and bright, solid whites. Grain is never excessive, and I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if the original theatrical presentations exhibited the same level of grain. Simply phenomenal work, especially considering the age and relative obscurity stateside of Le Dernier Combat.

Audio: Most impressive is Le Dernier Combat's funky score and its accompanying rich, substantial bass. The music in far too many on-the-cheap '80s efforts sound shrill and tinny, but the dynamic range in this stereo surround mix doesn't reflect its age or low-budget origins. It seems as if every speaker remains active throughout to some degree. The various effects and ambient sounds haven't lost their luster over the years, leaving this DVD release of Le Dernier Combat sounding every bit as great as it looks. Due to the lack of dialogue and text relating to events on-screen, no subtitles are included, nor are any necessary.

Supplements: Just trailers for a few other Luc Besson DVDs available through Columbia/Tri-Star.

Conclusion: Despite nearly twenty years having passed since filming began, the incredible Le Dernier Combat doesn't feel dated or outmoded in the slightest. The DVD presentation, despite the lack of extras (par for the course for Besson's films), is top-notch, and I genuinely can't imagine Le Dernier Combat looking or sounding any better than this until the next big home video format rolls around. Available as low as $22 shipped online, Le Dernier Combat is well worth a purchase. Highly Recommended.
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