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I often get asked what my favourite film of all time is, and my answer to that is Leon. Love this film. I actually watched it at school during end of term week meaning all lessons were ‘free lessons’. Our Design Tech teacher hired the TV and put this on. Due to time constrains we only managed to watch 30 minutes of it and that’s all it took for me to go to Blockbusters (no Netflixs in my day kids) to rent it out, and wow, blew my mind. I’ll go more into detail when I come to my final analysis.
Twelve-year old Mathilda (Portman) lives within the confines of a sleazy apartment block located in the roughest part of New York City. Even at her young age she already knows about the dart side of life. Her father stores drugs for corrupt cops and she has been neglected by her mother. On returning from the weekly grocery shop Mathilda finds that her abusive, dysfunctional family, including her beloved younger brother, have all been slaughtered by a psychotic, corrupt, drug dealing DEA agent Norman Stansfield (Oldman). In fear of her life she takes refuge with her neighbour. His name is Leon, a mysterious and solitary man who just so happens to be one of the world’s deadliest assassins. Aside from his career as a “cleaner”, he loves nothing more than to tend to his houseplants, drink his milk and spend endless hours doing sit-ups. And while Mathilda begins to open his mind more and teach him about life, Leon in exchange teaches her in the art of killing.
This is a five star film, no doubt about it. Gary Oldman, in my humbled opinion, is the greatest actor of all time and this film is evident of that. It’s his greatest role ever which has often been mentioned in the same bracket as one of cinema’s greatest villains. Rightfully so as well! Every time he appears on screen it grabs your attention, he truly comes across as a psycho. His performance carries this film. In later years Natalie Portman (who was making her acting debut her by the way) said that she never had to act fearful in her scenes with Oldman because she was legit terrified of him. A divinely psychotic performance just dripping with charisma. I find it ironic that Gary Oldman is best known for playing an evil dirty cop and a straight, play it down the middle police commissioner in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight triology.
A strong performance from Jean Reno, someone who I feel is a very underrated and that’s a shame because Reno is one hell of an actor. One second he is as cold as ice as the ‘professional’ but his performance is most moving when he reveals his sensitive side. Watching as his wounded soul slowly begins to heal is enough to touch the heart of any woman, but it is handled so subtly that it never becomes too ‘sappy’. I loved the way he carried the role of Leon, his work is his life (I know the feeling) and he’s completely out of touch with the real world, that’s until Mathilda enters his life and all of a sudden he has someone else to look after.
Whenever I mention this film to anyone I’ve yet to hear anyone knock it. That speaks volumes. Personally, I can’t find anything at fault. It does surprise me that this film never won the accolades that it deserves. No Oscars, no Golden Globs, nothing! Gary Oldman never won any awards for his performance. What a shame!
A timeless classic which has stood the test of time and among just the handful of movies you could watch indefinitely.
The greatest film of all time.
Rating: ***** (Top of the pops)