In The Fifth Element we see two main characters trying to save the world: one is the ever-lovely (and half-nude) Leeloo and the other one is Korben Dallas, the not so average ex-military who is now a cabbie (ex-cabbie starting from the beginning of the film). Leeloo is played by Milla Jovovich, in her biggest role to that date, while Korben was played by Bruce Willis, who at that time was at the height of his game.
Obviously, we would have been inclined to say that the central piece of The Fifth Element was the fifth element herself, Leeloo. However and without a doubt the real hero is Bruce Willis’s Korben Dallas.
It would have seemed pretty unusual, at that time especially, to see him playing in a French film, especially if we are to consider the unusual name of the film and the fact that (at that time) French films were considered art-house films nobody really understood.
But Bruce Willis is helped in here not just by his charisma, but also by his malleability (if it can be said so) as an actor: he blends into the sci-fi setting with ease and even in the what has happened moments.
As the actor said in one of the interviews that followed the release of The Fifth Element, it was a challenge portraying Korben Dallas – not because of all the action sequences (with which he was used until then), but also because of the director’s style of storytelling.
And what interested the actor in this new character was his attitude: a man living in the 23rd century but still having the same attitude a man would have in the 20th. So, basically, despite all the technology improvements the future might bring, life just follows its own course. Korben Dallas, from this point of view, isn’t keen on living like others do.
He doesn’t want to be a celebrity (even if everything would be green afterwards), he just wants to live like he is used too. He doesn’t follow the general approved norm, but lives by his own.
Basically, Leeloo has to save life. In our opinion, Korben Dallas is life. Korben Dallas is the hero that needs saving.