THE LADY (Luc Besson). 145 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (April 27). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
French action czar Luc Besson - maker of slick pop confections like La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element, and more recently the producer of action cinema like Taken and Lockout - is not the sort of person you'd expect to direct an expensive, sombre biopic of Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Perhaps that was what drew him to the project in the first place. But Besson seems confounded by the static nature of Suu Kyi's battle against the Burmese military dictatorship that confined her to house arrest while preventing her British husband, academic Michael Aris, and their two children from visiting her.
Unable to convey the inspirational value Suu Kyi held to her people as an icon of peaceful resistance, Besson and screenwriter Rebecca Frayn focus the story on Aris, who offers unbending support to his wife throughout their years of separation - and, eventually, his diagnosis of terminal cancer.
Suu Kyi's opponents are drawn as one-dimensional fanatics and thugs who delight in thwarting her. Leads Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis carry themselves with great dignity, except when Thewlis allows himself a little fun as Michael's twin brother, Anthony. But every scene is staged with the self-importance of an Oscar clip because Besson can't think of any other way to present the drama.