The action-filled, sci-fi thriller Lucy fills the cinema screen with amazing visuals and compelling concepts. It’s not surprising that Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element) handles the action, sci-fi genre very well in this 90-minute film.
Luc Besson fills the screen as director, and screenplay as writer, with deep emotion in plot and character though the lead heroine could have used more development. The fantastical plot places the mystery of the brain at center stage while a strong cast and crew realize Besson’s compelling vision.
The inevitable differing views and opinions can vary the audience’s personal involvement in a plot engulfed in a mostly serious tone. Lucy begins with the unfortunate circumstances of an innocent young woman.
Scarlett Johansson owns the title role of Lucy with her physical, mental and emotional skills. The beginning scene initiates audiences into Lucy’s background through dialogue and flashbacks during her current situation with a male “friend” outside a hotel. Besson inserts complimentary video clips related to each action, which seem a bit strange and even comical at first.
These clips quickly enhance the drama and tension in this familiar, but certainly not normal situation. The beginning sequence displays Lucy’s excuses instead of her assertiveness and, more importantly, an increasingly physical coercion by her “friend” that centers on a basic evil – forcing people to do things against their will.
“Please God help me,” Lucy pleas as the inhumane drug lord Mr. Jang, played by Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) and his Korean thugs prey upon her. Lucy eventually experiences a night and day transition in a holding cell inside a factory. Her traumatic contact with the synthetic drug CPH4 from a birth development hormone gradually expands her brain capacity.
Besson continues using the clip insertion techniques along with increasing percentage number of Lucy’s current brain capacity to expand the audience’s thinking and prime them for the increasingly abnormal scenarios as Jang and his thugs pursue her.
Analeigh Tipton (Warm Bodies, The Green Hornet, Crazy Stupid Love) plays Lucy’s roommate Caroline in one key sequence where Lucy also contacts Professor Norman, well played by Morgan Freeman.
Freeman easily conveys high concepts involving cerebral connections, human survival basics (live on or reproduce), and, of course, brain capacity as filmmakers use him for logical credibility and hope audiences go along for the ride (…most will).
Do filmmakers explain how that percentage is determined? No. That is one of many supplemental details that audiences can investigate/determine for themselves after leaving the theater. Still, the explanations, presentations and concepts all represent hope for humanity – a welcome change from a glut of apocalyptic offerings in the sci-fi, action genre filled with depressing despair.
At this point, Besson channels the impressive yet occasionally illogical events through Lucy’s perspective using special effects shots (e.g. physical changes in her body, connections in her environment, etc.) accompanied by equally grandiose music like Mozart’s “Mass No. 19 In D Minor, K.626 Requiem: Introitus: Requiem Aeternam”.
Only Lucy knows the urgency of her situation, so she depends on others by convincing them of her special abilities, which gets easier as the plot progresses. Thankfully, other heroic characters like French law enforcement Pierre Del Rio, played by Amr Waked (Syrianna, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) become dependable allies.
Lucy’s simple yet decisive and often dangerous actions impress. This unpredictability excites the story, but only exists because she feels no fear, desire or pain. Johansson’s physical expressions reflect her status well without reducing any impact or key emotions.
Lucy uses violence with her special abilities, but always explains her logical reasons to the other characters. Lucy eventually avoids all violence when her abilities allow, especially during a showdown sequence in a hospital hallway facing Jang’s thugs – another welcome improvement in the use of violence in films when normal characters acquire special abilities (unlike the detestable Hollow Man).
Filmmakers’ most noticeable stumble comes in an interior plane sequence where editing and transition of a struggling character off a plane could have been much better. They make up for it during a car chase sequence that seems to have no film speed manipulation and features the song “Single Barrel (Slinging the Deck) by The Crystal Method.
Frequent Besson collaborators Thierry Arbogast (cinematography) and Eric Serra (music composer) provide extraordinary contributions. Serra composes a memorable musical score featuring the song and “Sister Rust” by Damon Albarn, which includes a sample from Serra’s score. Make the Girl Dance, Beck, Raury, and Guillaume Bouchateau also contribute songs.
Filmed in France and Taipei City, Taiwan, Lucy challenges the intellect with questions/statements along a wild action ride filled with great sound and special effects from the well-established Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).
Audiences cannot avoid echoes of similar films like The Matrix, Star Trek, and the recently released Transcendence (also co-starring Freeman), yet Lucy stands strong enough for a solid recommendation. Plenty of presented material for a possible sequel here though that seems more likely that Lucy will stand as a singular touchstone to further the film genre. Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality.
© Michael Siebenaler