Born in 1412 in the village of Domrémy, Joan of Arc (Leelee Sobieski) grew up witnessing the horror of the fighting plaguing France but in all the surrounding misery she has belief in the legend of the Maiden of Lorraine which proclaims that a young maiden will come and not only unite the country but make it free again. Over a decade later Joan starts hearing the voices of Saint Catherine and Archangel Michael which convince her that she must go to Prince Charles to instruct him to become King and drive out the English. Realising Joan's potential he commissions her to lead his army to success. But after success comes treachery when the crowned Charles leaves her a victim of his plans and captured by the Burgundians who hand her over to the English who after being put on trial is sentenced to be burned at the stake for heresy.
Those who have visited The Movie Scene before will be able to guess what is coming next but here goes. My historical knowledge is pitiful which I lay blame at the British education system during the 80s, a system which might as well have done away with teachers and just gave the students the text books to read and be done with, it would have saved a fortune. You see lessons were boring back then, history was taught in a dull, dry manner and not made to come alive or make us aware of its relevance and so no one really learned anything. But in history we were taught stuff which didn't interest us any way and Joan of Arc was certainly not on the curriculum.
With that little rant out of the way with it brings me to this 1999 made for TV retelling of "Joan of Arc" which before you scamper off because you saw me mention made for TV should realise that it has a decent cast and is not some cheap production with some impressive sets and decent acting. The trouble is that my historical ignorance means that as I watched "Joan of Arc" my criteria as to rating is different to others and doesn't include historical accuracy because of my lack of historical knowledge. Instead my criteria consists of did get me interested, did it keep me interested, did it entertain and did I feel like I learned anything and it has to be said that it ticks all those boxes.
Now right off the bat this version of "Joan of Arc" grabs your attention with some decent special effects, not entirely convincing but certainly delivering an impact and this is coupled with great sets, locations and costumes which make it visually impressive for a made for TV production. But this is coupled with the cast which you find yourself enjoying because so many familiar faces appear. Suddenly you will recognize someone be it Maury Chaykin, Neil Patrick Harris or Jonathan Hyde. Of course you know by just seeing the names the accents won't be right but thankfully it doesn't even try to fake it and make a poor job by doing so which is especially the case when it comes to Leelee Sobieski who does a good job of keeping our attention throughout with a decent performance from the then young actress.
As for the actual storyline, well as I said I haven't got a clue as to how accurate or authentic this version is, what I will say is that not only does director Christian Duguay pace things nicely so that it is easy to follow but the screenwriters have managed to keep things simple and interesting. It means that by the time "Joan of Arc" came to an end I had learned something, whether or not what I learned was right or not it at least gave me some idea of the story of Joan of Arc.
What this all boils down to is that "Joan of Arc" considering that it is a made for TV movie/ mini-series is impressive. It has the look, it has the cast, it has the effects and it works the story nicely so that even if historical movies are not your thing it doesn't become too heavy or dry.