(This post will contain spoilers)
Gary Oldman’s villainous Stansfield gives a quote in the beginning of the film that I think sums up why I love Leon: The Professional so much. “I like these calm little moments before the storm.” Leon is one of my all time favorite movies, and is one of reasons why I grew a passion for film in the first place. Luc Besson wrote and directed this film and it’s considered his masterpiece. It has become a cult classic and is currently ranked #27 on IMDB’s greatest films of all time. This film has so many memorable moments and scenes. The opening action sequence with Leon taking down enemies, pretty much every scene that Gary Oldman is in, and of course the final climatic death of Leon. However, the scenes I like most are the ones that don’t get talked about as much. They are the scenes with Leon and Mathilda just bonding and building their relationship. They don’t add much to the story and are easily overshadowed by the more immense scenes that will follow. They are the least tense but most heart-warming. They are the calm little moments before the storm.
On paper, Leon is about a young girl whose family gets murdered, and is taken in by a hitman who teaches her everything he knows to get back at them. Yes, this is a very dark story that is a revengeful crime thriller, but in reality it is so much more. More than anything, this is about a hitman who reluctantly takes in a young girl whose family has been murdered, but forms a bond with her that gives more meaning to his life than he ever has had before. I always saw Leon and Mathilda as more of a father-daughter relationship than anything, and I love how both characters change because of it. This is a heartwarming, character-driven, coming of age film disguised as a dark, revengeful crime thriller.
Luc Besson brilliantly uses close-up shots to allow the audience to become more intimate with the lead characters, and in return adds more emotional impact to the story and affection for the characters. The intimacy that I get while watching this film adds a whole other level of impact to the story. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman give such great performances as well and allow their characters, that aren’t perfect, to be extremely likable. This is why my favorite scenes are the ones with just Leon and Mathilda. They have such great chemistry and need each other for so many reasons. Mathilda needs a father figure she never had, and Leon just needs someone to look after and really just a reason to get up in the morning.
There are 5 little moments that I love so much and give the characters depth, and the story sensitivity.
1. Leon watching Singing in the Rain
This scene is fantastic mainly because it’s the first time we, as an audience, see the sentimental side of Leon. Before this, he was just a one-dimensional bad-ass hitman. However, watching him as he’s watching the film gives us a love for this character and introduces a new side of Leon to the audience.
2. The pig/mitten puppet scene
This scene is the first time Leon and Mathilda start to form their bond, and Mathilda begins to feel more comfortable around Leon. Leon showing his humorous side is very pleasing to watch and adds an extra layer to his character.
I love this scene mainly cause of the Bjork song, “Venus as a Boy.” Although, it’s really important to see Leon and Mathilda working together and their companionship is shown at full display.
4. Leon and Mathilda playing charades
This is probably my favorite scene in the entire film. Natalie Portman is just so good here. In this scene, we see her acting realistically just like the 12 year girl that she is. It’s humorous, heart-warming, and just refreshing to watch. I love her acting as Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and Leon trying to act like John Wayne was the icing on the cake.
5. Leon and Mathilda laying in bed together
This is the scene right before the ambush where Leon ends up dying, and Mathilda is forced to run off on her own. This shot perfectly sums up the bond that has formed between these two characters and how comfortable they have gotten with each other. This is the final calm moment with these characters before the storm….
These are the scenes that I love most, and I’m glad Luc Besson kept in his film. The solidarity of these two characters is what I like most about this film. (It really reminds me of Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us.) These calm moments before the storm are what makes Leon stand out from most other crime thrillers, and why it is still considered one of the best films of all time. If you are reading this and haven’t seen Leon in a while, than I implore you to re-watch it and focus on the scenes that don’t do much to the story besides building depth to the characters. Those are my favorites and I hope they can become yours as well!