The Fifth Element (French: Le Cinquième Élément) is a 1997 English-language French science fiction action film directed and co-written by Luc Besson. It stars Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman and Milla Jovovich. Mostly set in the 23rd century, the film’s central plot involves the survival of planet Earth, which becomes the responsibility of Korben Dallas (Willis), a taxicab driver and former special forces major, after a young woman (Jovovich) falls into his cab. Dallas joins forces with her to recover four mystical stones essential for the defence of Earth against an impending attack.
Besson started writing the story that became The Fifth Element when he was 16 years old; he was 38 when the film opened in cinemas. Besson wanted to shoot the film in France, but suitable locations could not be found; filming took place instead in London and Mauritania. Comics writers Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, whose comics provided inspiration for parts of the film, were hired for production design. Costume design was by Jean Paul Gaultier.
The Fifth Element received mainly positive reviews, although it tended to polarize critics. It has been called both the best and worst summer blockbuster of all time. The film was a financial success, earning more than $263 million at the box office on a $90 million budget. At the time of its release it was the most expensive European film ever made, and it remained the highest-grossing French film at the international box office until the release of The Intouchables in 2011.
In 1914, aliens known as Mondoshawans arrive at an ancient Egyptian temple to collect, for safekeeping, the only weapon capable of defeating a great evil that appears every 5,000 years. The weapon consists of four stones, representing the four classical elements, and a sarcophagus containing a fifth element in the form of a human, which combines the power of the other four elements into a divine light capable of defeating the evil. The Mondoshawans promise their human contact, a priest from a secret order, that they will come back with the element stones in time to stop the great evil when it returns.
In 2263, the great evil appears in deep space in the form of a giant ball of black fire, and destroys an attacking Earth spaceship. The Mondoshawans’ current contact on Earth, priest Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm), informs the President of the Federated Territories (Tom Lister Jr.) of the history of the great evil and the weapon that can stop it. As the Mondoshawans return to Earth they are ambushed by Mangalores, a race hired by the industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman), who has been instructed by the great evil to acquire the stones.
The Mondoshawans’ spacecraft is destroyed, though the stones are not on board; the only item recovered is a hand of The Fifth Element. Scientists take it to a New York City laboratory and use it to reconstruct a humanoid woman who takes the name Leeloo (Milla Jovovich). Terrified of the unfamiliar surroundings, she escapes confinement and jumps off a ledge, crashing into the flying taxicab of Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former major in the special forces.
Dallas delivers Leeloo to Cornelius and his apprentice, David (Charlie Creed-Miles), whereupon Cornelius learns that the Mondoshawans entrusted the four element stones to the alien Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn Le Besco), an opera singer. Zorg kills many of the Mangalores because of their failure to obtain the stones, but their compatriots determine to seize the artifacts for themselves. Upon learning from the Mondoshawans that the stones are in Plavalaguna’s possession, General Munro (Brion James), Dallas’ former superior, recommissions Dallas and orders him to travel undercover to meet Plavalaguna on a luxury intergalactic cruise; Dallas takes Leeloo with him. Meanwhile, Cornelius instructs David to prepare the ancient temple designed to house the stones, then stows away on the space plane transporting Dallas to the cruise liner.
Plavalaguna is killed when the Mangalores attack the ship, but Dallas succeeds in retrieving the stones. During his struggle with the Mangalores he kills their leader. After shooting and seriously wounding Leeloo, Zorg finds a carrying case which he presumes contains the stones, and takes it back to his spacecraft, leaving behind a time bomb that forces the liner’s occupants to evacuate. Discovering the case to be empty, Zorg returns to the ship and deactivates his bomb, but a dying Mangalore sets off his own device, destroying the ship and killing Zorg. Dallas, Cornelius, Leeloo, and talk-show host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) escape with the stones aboard Zorg’s spacecraft.
The four join up with David at the weapon chamber in the Egyptian temple as the great evil approaches. They activate the stones, but having witnessed and studied so much violence, Leeloo has become disenchanted with humanity and refuses to cooperate. Dallas confesses his love for Leeloo and kisses her. In response, Leeloo combines the power of the stones and releases the divine light; the great evil, now dormant, becomes another moon in Earth orbit.
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