Jean-Pierre Jeunet feels like a spiritual and creative cousin to Terry Gilliam, but I’m tempted to argue that he’s a better visual stylist than Gilliam, who loves dark and twisted fables set in what can only be his own rich imagination. From Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to his most recent ode to dreams (and Heath Ledger), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Gilliam makes the surreal replace the real. But Jeunet takes this one step further: He makes the surreal the norm.
Starting with Amelie, which soared thanks to a breathtaking performance from Audrey Tautou, right on through A Very Long Engagement (again featuring Tautou) to Micmacs, his latest absurd remix of everything from The Little Rascals and The Road Runner to Lucky Number Slevin, Mission: Impossible and Parnassus, Jeunet finds ways to engage either our hearts and memories and now weaves in snippets of geopolitical intrigue for good measure.
Orphaned as a young child, Bazil (Dany Boon) sets into motion an elaborate plan to get revenge against the company that makes bullets (like the one embedded in his brain due to an accidental shooting) and the arms manufacturer who created the explosive device that killed his father. Along the way, he hooks up with a motley crew of fellow misfits, each with specific skills necessary to complete his cockeyed plan.
It’s comforting to settle into the embrace of a filmmaker like Jeunet, secure in the knowledge that despite a long-forgotten (and rather curious) franchise misstep (the fourth Aliens installment) he’s not going to surrender to conventional studio thinking. Grade: A-