Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Luc Besson
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
As has been said time and time again, behind every great man there’s a great woman. Behind Luc Besson, there has been a succession of them; each one of them determined, intelligent, and strong in their own distinctive way. For despite many of his films being injected with a triple dose of masculinity, it is always a heroine that can be found at the heart of his finest films. Though Lucy is likely to never quite attain the same cult status afforded to some of those works, it should perhaps go down as one of the filmmaker’s bravest movies to date.
The question at its heart is what power could someone have if they were able to use more than the 10% of their cerebral capacity they’ve currently unlocked. As Morgan Freeman’s professor of exposition explains at length early on, Dolphins are able to use 20% of their brain’s potential and have been able to develop their own natural sonar because of it. As one of his students ponders, what would happen if a human could unlock 100%?
Step forward eponymous heroine Lucy, who is forced to carry a bag of synthetic drugs inside her stomach by a band of bloodthirsty gangsters. When the package begins to leak and the drug flows into her blood stream, Lucy soon finds herself able to harbour the power of her mind’s full potential and discover all the mysteries it unlocks.
This is, without doubt, Besson at his most visually creative. While Limitless treated the same concept as a mere excuse for gleeful excess, Lucy daringlyexplores the notion how uniquely powerful and unstoppable someone could become if the universe was truly opened up to them. Using a dazzling array of CGI effects to show how his heroine now has the ability to see and hear all – everything that lives pulses with life, phone conversations spiral into the heavens through a code akin to The Matrix – Besson opens up a Pandora’s Box of unstoppable imagination that’s beautiful to behold.
It is also undeniably baffling to try and make any sense of and here lies the issue. With apparently no limits to her power, Lucy soon finds herself harnessed with godlike abilities; it’s an interesting concept, but one that lacks coherence because Besson never truly takes the time to develop it. Running at a meagre 89 minutes, the writer/director soon becomes lost within his multi-layered narrative, which ineffectively tries to balance the audacious sci-fi aspect with a generically brutal shoot ‘em up. Before long the latter wins out, Besson once more proves to be the auteurist king of shoot-outs and leaves you, ironically, to wish you could access more of your brain function in order to make head or tail of the film’s more complex elements.
Though it is unlikely that you will ever manage to get a firm grasp of such things, there’s no denying you have a great time getting there and that is almost entirely down to Johansson’s commanding core performance. Not only is she one of the most beautiful actors working today, she is also one of the most chameleonic, assuredly negotiating Lucy’s transformation from frightened victim to unstoppable adversary. Johansson’s extraordinary ability to simultaneously evoke excitement, laughter and poignancy effortlessly allows her character to remain human, even as she becomes super-human.
From the standpoint of the director, the most fitting way to look at Lucy is as a fusion of Besson’s entire filmography, which melds the visual splendour of such films as The Fifth Element with the excitement of Leon and is propelled forward by the strength of a fully dimensional female lead. The result is one that’s bold, beguiling, and utterly bewildering.