I’m a fan of Luc Besson. The Fifth Element is one of my personal favorite films, and I was highly impressed the first time I saw Leon, so I was excited to see he had one film that made the list (though, if it had been The Fifth Element, as unlikely as that would’ve been, I would have been that much more ecstatic). The Last Battle is Besson’s first feature film, as well as the first film that his future frequent collaborator Jean Reno would have a leading role in, so it would end up working out for both of them, largely thanks to this one. As for the film itself, to call it post-apocalyptic would be to very bluntly hit the nail on the head, but this one has numerous qualities that make it stand out from the rest of the pack, and it rightly earned cult status for what it does, or rather, what it does not do: speak.
The film takes place in a very post-apocalyptic Paris, which aside from the ruins of various buildings, has been turned into a desert wasteland (the Book likens it to Mad Max, but I think this goes one step further). We follow a man (listed in the credits merely as “The Man”) as he lives in a burnt-out office building, constructing a plane to escape the desert he’s stuck in. He succeeds, and flies the plane until the battery runs out and he crashes near a hospital, where he is taken in by a doctor, with whom he makes friends, and while the doctor’s fortressed home is being besieged by the aptly named ‘Brute’ (played by Reno). The entire film is shot in black-and-white, which is one major aspect that, as I mentioned, has this one separate from the rest, but it’s not just the stark foreboding imagery that does it. You may be wondering why I haven’t brought up the script yet, or why there’s no dialogue snippet below the poster up there. Well… there is none. The entire film has virtually no dialogue; something about the apocalypse that has rendered the world the way it is has also rendered the people unable to speak, aside from grunting or gasping (though there is a sequence in the hospital where the man and the doctor use some sort of breathing apparatus he has designed to let them say hello to each other). It’s this that makes this especially memorable, as the film still manages to tell a pretty good story despite its self-imposed limitations; it may take a little more working out and thinking than a regular film, but that is part of what makes The Last Battle so fulfilling, in my opinion. And oh yeah; since this is an 80s movie, it has an appropriate 80s soundtrack, which means it is really, really dated, and doesn’t fit the film, in my eyes, so heads up on the music.
The Book adds that the film is largely made as an allegory and comment on alienation of the Parisian youth in the 1980s, but to be honest, I think they were just looking for allegory to fill in a slot of film critique that they felt had to be there, regardless of the film they talk about. I wouldn’t be surprised if Besson and the filmmakers had merely wanted to make a post-apocalyptic film with no dialogue, mostly to see if they could do it, but also to provide an experience unlike most other ones out there for moviegoers, and in that, they’ve succeeded. This might’ve made the list just for the fact that it has no dialogue and its cult movie status as a result, but I’m glad it did, and I’m glad to have seen it. And what’s more, I can recommend this a lot more widely than any other foreign film I’ve seen yet, because there are no subtitles to be caught up in. See; it’s a win for everybody!
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10