Nikita undergoes her training at a top-secret facility, both in fighting and in matters of femininity. Once she has proven herself in her first major mission—at a high-class restaurant, deliberately set up to force her to use her skills and resourcefulness to escape—Nikita must re-enter the world as an apparently average person. By that point, her humanity is all too clear, and she is already a highly sympathetic character. As she fixes up her new apartment and commences her new life as a supposed nurse, we can see her transformation into a much better-adjusted person. Nikita falls in love with Marco, a supermarket cashier with nautical dreams, who moves in with her and tolerates her secretiveness regarding her past.
Of course, every time Nikita settles too comfortably into this newfound happiness, that past returns in the form of a phone call, directing her on missions of increasing risk and difficulty. “Uncle Bob’s” gift to the couple of a Venice vacation is merely a setup for one of these, and Nikita must hide everything from Marco, aiming a gun through the bathroom window while he tries to hold a sincere conversation with her.
The climax arrives with the announcement of the embassy mission. Their password is changed to something unknown, and a “cleaner” is sent in, determined to finish the mission at any cost. Ultimately, Nikita succeeds in obtaining the necessary materials, though much suspenseful action and high-speed danger ensues first. Meanwhile, Marco has long since discovered the reason behind Nikita’s secrecy and now has to deal with losing his love. He is paid a visit by her “uncle,” who’s concerned that she must be tracked down. Marco, however, is able to hand over what he requires. He then implores him to leave Nikita alone, reasoning that she has taken more than enough lives for them by now to repay her debt. This logic seems to satisfy Bob, who should surely be well disposed to the notion of freeing her.
While certainly an exciting, entertaining and fast-paced thriller, “Nikita” is more than that. This intelligent and very well-constructed movie is something of a study of the main character’s abnormally fascinating psyche. Nikita’s initial disturbances and issues are demonstrated outwardly when she lashes out in displays of extremely antisocial behavior. As the plot progresses she is given a second chance at life, and by the end, one can conclude that despite everything she has been through, she has probably been cured of all that at last.
At its beginning, “Point of No Return” honestly seemed hardly worthwhile, like a rushed rehashing of the events in “Nikita.” Eventually it does diverge more significantly from its source and has its own merits, but on the whole, the one thing I can say that I rather preferred in the remake over Besson’s quite brilliant original is the elaboration on the ending. To see her walking away in the rain as she’s declared dead for a second time really helps you to literally feel her sense of freedom from what was essentially ownership. Though it’s bittersweet, she is once again being reborn out of a life of violence--and this time, she owns herself again. So that was a nice bit of semi-hopeful closure. On the other hand, Besson’s femme fatale seemed a much more compassionate type of character than the one portrayed by Bridget Fonda.
I personally liked “La Femme Nikita” very much. It brings to mind other, later movies featuring the “beautiful but deadly female warrior” archetype, such as “Kill Bill,” in which the Bride is thwarted in her attempt to escape the role of assassin and lead a “normal,” peaceful life of personal fulfillment. While it appears impossible for them to inhabit both roles of their double lives, she—like Nikita—does emerge as a victorious survivor. As a character, Nikita was played in an often delightfully eccentric manner, almost like a dangerous, mercurial and uninhibited child. At times she recalled, for me, Allison the ‘basket case’ from “The Breakfast Club.”
Everything from the excellent score to the cinematographic “look”of this movie (courtesy of cinematographer Thierry Arbogast) suited it perfectly. During the first half and much of the second, the predominantly low-key, bluish lighting and color palette leant the ideal threatening, ‘underground’ atmosphere. Whenever it brightened, the contrast served to juxtapose the two sides of Nikita’s life and personality—dark versus light. Sets, camera movements, etc. also heighten the suspense and drama of her world. In my view, “Nikita” is most deserving of its status among Besson’s most resounding international hits.
France is an important country to discuss in any film class because its own Lumiere brothers are credited with having given birth to cinema itself through showings of their documentary (‘reality’) films in the 1890s. Following them came Georges Melies, whose films such as "A Trip to the Moon" were, conversely, imaginative flights of fantasy utilizing elaborate sets. By the late 1920s, Abel Gance was being even more experimental with various innovative film techniques, resulting in products such as his epic "Napoleon," about the famous Emperor.
Here is a list of some other French films I would recommend, ranging from the 1930s to the past decade:
- Delicatessen (1991)-Director: Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- Jules et Jim (1962)-Director: Francois Truffaut
- The Rules of the Game [La Regle du jeu] (1939)-Director: Jean Renoir
- A Very Long Engagement [Un long dimanche de fiançailles] (2004)-Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- Les Parapluies de Cherbourg [The Umbrellas of Cherbourg] (1964)-Director: Jacques Demy
- Le salaire de la peur [The Wages of Fear] (1953)-Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
- Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain [The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain] (2001)-Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her [2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle] (1967)-Director: Jean-Luc Godard
- L'Enfant Sauvage [The Wild Child] (1970)-Director: Francois Truffaut
- La Belle et la Bete [Beauty & the Beast] (1946)-Director: Jean Cocteau
- Indochine (1992)-Director: Régis Wargnier
- Baxter (1989)-Director: Jérôme Boivin