This must be who John Lennon was referring to on “Sgt. Pepper”. Scarlett Johansson and Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman star in Luc Besson’s Lucy.
Director – Luc Besson
Screenplay – Luc Besson
Producer – Virginie Silla
Rated R strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality
While in Taipei, Taiwan, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is kidnapped by the mob and forced to work as a drug mule. Led by drug dealer Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik), they surgically implant a bag containing a synthetic hormone known as CPH4 inside her stomach, but when the bag is ruptured that drug gives her the capability to access a greater percentage of her brain than what humans are normally able to do. According to Professor Samuel Norman, humans only access 10% of the brains, so imagine what she could do once she hits 100%.
“She’ll unlock vast, powerful mysteries of the universe that unlike mankind has ever seen.”
Admit it. You read that with Morgan Freeman’s voice in your head.
Combining elements previously seen in The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the similarly themed Limitless, Lucy is brought to us by writer/director Luc Besson. Besson was big in the ’90s with La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, and after that – well, not really much anything else worth your time. All of his trademarks are here: the operatic score while a flurry of gunfire flies by in slow-motion, car chases (which is actually well shot instead using quick cuts and shaky-cam) and 50 million closeup shots of leading gal ScarJo’s face to remind us just how incredibly gorgeous she really is.
You know, just in case we forget that fact halfway through the movie.
Pretty much, you can tell this is a Besson film. Now, I think most of us are fully aware, especially if you watch MythBusters, that the whole theory of humans only being able to access 10% of our brains is scientific bull shit (although I know some people where even less than that’s probably true), but coming from a man who did The Fifth Element (one of his best films), I don’t expect scientific plausibility. I expect this film to look pretty damn good, and Besson delivers; in fact, it’s one of the better looking films he’s done in over 15 years.
This has been quite a year for Johansson with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chef and Under the Skin – best film of the year so far – already under her belt (not to mention she also had Don Jon and Her last year). Despite the ludicrous plot and the fact that after gaining such jar-dropping intellectual abilities she doesn’t do much with them (an idea handled better in Limitless), ScarJo is convincing in this role, starting off vulnerable and afraid before turning confident and commanding. One of her finest scenes, which depicts the fear she initially has so well, involves a phone call to her mother where, due to her mind being opened up, begins to recalls feelings, tastes, sounds and memories so far back in her life she couldn’t possibly have remembered them.
The only reason I chuckled during it at first had nothing to do with the scene or the performance, but ’cause I had a quick thought wondering if her mother was about to ask what type of acid she just dropped.
There’s not much to say about Morgan Freeman. It’s Morgan Freeman doing Morgan Freeman. Freaky things start to happen to Lucy, and here’s the Through the Wormhole guy to explain everything. I can understand. You build the career that Freeman has, with an Oscar win to show for it, and you’ll wanna kick back and enjoy the twilight of your career too.
We’re currently seeing Alan Arkin walking a similar path, playing the same cranky bastard in every movie now.
If there’s any problem I have with this film, it’s that the first half is entertaining and vintage Besson – fast paced, violent and loaded with dark humor. Then, although the second half doesn’t completely fly off the rails, it begins to lose its luster. That’s mainly ’cause once Lucy begins to access 60-100% of her brain, she becomes essentially an omniscient, all-powerful femme fatale that villains have no chance whatsoever of defeating. It’s fun watching the ways she manhandles everyone, but the suspense or sense of danger you initially felt with her character feels lacking come the third act where there’s no challenge for her. You could argue this film is more about Lucy’s journey than her kicking every villain’s ass (Universal mistakenly advertised this film to make you think it would be the latter), and you definitely get the Euro-artsy philosophy Besson is known for, but those ideas never go as deep as they could.
But maybe that’s a good thing? One of the reasons Transcendence failed was the more it tried to explain itself, the deeper a hole it dug itself into. I have a feeling Besson realized how ludicrous, yet highly ambitious, of a story he had on his hands, and to explain any more than what’s given would’ve detracted more from the film.
You’ll certainly have to suspend a good share of disbelief here, and if you’re able to do so, Lucy will provide you with some entertaining popcorn fun. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, Luc Besson keeps things tight and moving, while also dazzling us with the visual flare that put his name on the map over 20 years ago. Anchored by another strong performance from Scarlett Johansson, Lucy may not be up there with the films from Besson’s heyday in the ’90s, but it’s the best I’ve seen from him since then.
I give Lucy a B (★★★).