The Fifth Element begins in Egypt in the 1930s where archaeologists are deciphering hieroglyphics on a tomb that describe linking the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – with a magical fifth to create the only instrument that can counteract a Terrible Evil that hits our universe when a doorway opens between two parallel dimensions every 5,000 years. Just then, an alien spaceship arrives and it seems the secret is lost forever.
Fast forward to New York in the year 2259 where a mysterious female humanoid named Leeloo crash-lands into a flying taxi cab driven by former government agent Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), drawing him into a race to save the Earth from the approaching force of Terrible Evil.
Leeloo (Russian actress Milla Jovovich) is a kooky redhead who speaks gibberish, has a genius-level IQ and is unnaturally strong.
Only a priest called Cornelius (Ian Holm) – a descendant of the priests who kept the fifth element secret safe in Egypt for centuries – can help Leeloo save the planet.
A vital ingredient in the save-the-world plan is onboard a floating resort in space called Fhloston Paradise – but before they can get there, our heroes must evade capture by the cops, the government, and Southern-accented arms dealer, Zorg (Gary Oldman with a weird Human League hairdo) and his army of alien mercenaries, the Mangalores (pictured below).
Dallas and Leeloo win a competition to travel to the resort but are accompanied by camp radio DJ and leopardskin fetishist Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) which means a live radio link during all sorts of shenanigans, including a vocal performance by a medusa with a golden throat, simply called the Diva (Maïwenn Le Besco) – a grotesque apparition who provides the only moment of illuminating beauty in the film.
The plot is confusing gibberish but the film is a superb flight of imagination that soars into original terrain for an inventive rollercoaster ride. The satire is slick, the visuals unusual and the thrills futuristic, and if the 23rd Century Big Apple special effects don’t amaze you, the camp trip to Fhloston Paradise certainly will.
The elaborate sets took up nine stages at Pinewood Studios.
Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr
Maïwenn Le Besco
Julie T Wallace