LUCY Review

Lucy is lightning fast. As soon as Luc Besson's latest European-tinged philosophical reflection disguised as an action film begins we are in the throws of multiple ideas and unknown situations. There is never a moment as the film begins to unfold where one wonders past what Besson's intent was with the film for, despite Morgan Freeman preaching to a choir of eager college students, we easily become wrapped up in these universal questions and ponderings. Not three years ago the highly regarded Terrence Malick crafted a film Roger Ebert placed on his "Greatest Films of All Time" column that contributed to the Sight & Sound poll. Malick's Tree of Life is a film that attempts to cover the span of not just one human life, but the existence of life on our planet and in some weird, off-beaten way Lucy attempts to explore the same thoughts and ideas with the added-bonus of putting our central human subject in a state of heightened reality. This all may sound quite strange given the trailers for this Scarlett Johansson-starrer made it look like a science-fiction action flick in which Scar Jo kicks ass after being betrayed and infused with a product that unlocks the other ninety percent of the human brain. Still, while all of this is somewhat accurate in the vein all of those things happen and you would certainly classify the film as science fiction, this is a movie more about the endless possibilities than it is who our heroine will fight next. Taking its cues from the myth that says humans only use ten percent of our brains, Besson explores what might occur if we were enabled to use the full capacity of our cognitive reach and he thinks some strange stuff might begin to happen. The thing about Lucy though is that this is a film you can't take overly-serious or become caught up in the semantics of if this could really happen and if it did, what it might actually mean if the entire human race were enabled to do as Lucy. No, what one must be able to do with a movie as (somewhat) outlandish as this is to take it all in on its own terms and enjoy it or leave it alone altogether. For me, I love an interestingly strange premise, the science fiction genre in general and Johansson has been on somewhat of a streak as of late so I was more than willing to look past any breaks in reality and simply enjoy Lucy for what she is: Besson's exploration of the nature of life through the eyes of the kinetic energy with which he directs.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is apprehended by a group of thugs who have anything but good intentions.
Life was given to us a billion years ago, what have we done with it? This question bookends the film and in between we are given the possibilities of what we all could potentially do with this time given to us here on our planet. Of course, to hammer home the impact of what we've become and how far we could go Besson opens up on a standard female still searching for who she wants to be and what she wants to do in the world. Lucy (Johansson) is talking with newly-minted boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbaek) as he readies to do a job that includes dropping off a locked briefcase at a hotel while Lucy needs to get to her apartment to shower and study for her classes. The previous night was spent partying and drinking and it seems to be catching up to her. Richard can't seem to bring himself to take the mysterious briefcase into the hotel though as he begins to coax Lucy into doing his bidding for him. Lucy is not up for the task, but Richard is persistent and extremely comfortable for a person we learn has only been with Lucy for a week. As Lucy begins to pull away and detach herself from the awkward situation Richard places a handcuff around her wrist and essentially forces her to take the briefcase into mysterious Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Once inside, the panic begins to truly set-in. Lucy has no idea what is in the briefcase or who she is asking to meet, but when several bodyguards exit the elevator and roughly escort her to a top floor where a room can be glimpsed of battered bodies and Jang presents himself to the young woman covered with blood spatter there can only be a few ways this scenario is going to end. It seems Richard had entrusted Lucy with a new synthetic drug that mimics an agent that pregnant women produce to enable the fetus to begin growing bones among other things. Besson has a perfectly fine explanation for it within the context of his world and so we have no problem buying into the idea that Lucy and three other unsuspecting victims are laced with the drugs in their stomach and made to be drug mules for Jang. Of course, if things went according to plan we wouldn't have a movie and so when the bag bursts in Lucy's stomach the drug begins unlocking the previously unexplored regions of her brain and crazy begins to occur.

This is strictly Johansson's film and she owns every bit of it. In the aforementioned first scene where we are introduced to Lucy as a twenty-five year-old graduate student who is living abroad in Taiwan we pick up on the casualness of who she is as a person with certain ticks in her facade that hint at attributes specific to her. As she is taken into Jang's dwellings and forced to conversate with him to save her skin we see the fear, the nervousness, the need to continue living in the moments when she believes she is going to die. What makes the progression of Lucy as a character all the more interesting is the way in which Johansson escalates those same, quick-notice qualities with every up-tick in the percentage of brain power she is using. In the first stages after she realizes something has happened to her she is still able to sit back and understand why these strange feelings are occurring while not necessarily knowing what to do with them. She still calls her mother and recounts the memories of her childhood that bring a tear to her eye. She is nostalgic and longs for those days of innocence in her current predicament, but more than that she is realizing the evolution of her mind is expanding at such a rapid rate that the inevitable conclusion is she will die much sooner. The more she begins to inhabit these unexplored areas of her brain the less she becomes human in the way we typically perceive the word. She is evolving before our eyes, essentially capturing what, in some variation, might occur over the next four million years were the human race and our planet to survive and packing it into twenty-four hours. In going on this journey Johansson has to up her game with every new level unlocked as it is her physical changes in body language and expression (or lack thereof) that give more an indication of her development than anything she says. In fact, as Lucy becomes more a distant relative of the human being of today she doesn't talk so much as demonstrate. It is in these demonstrations of her abilities that the film entertains the mass audience while the scattershot of ideas behind them are what make the film overall the more interesting experience, Scar Jo's performance only aiding in the credibility of its bizarre premise.

In order to relay understanding of her condition, Lucy calls on the help of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).
These endless possibilities are what make the film all the more interesting. It comes up time and time again with films that have interesting starting points, but once they reach a certain act are unsure of where to go with things given where they might actually point or that the writer inherently wants to follow structure and resolve all issues and character points. Lucy clearly has an intriguing opening line and it reels us in quite nicely, but what is more satisfying is the way Besson continues to up the stakes and the creativity of where he wants to take his initial idea. As said earlier, Morgan Freeman more or less shows up to convey the high points of what is going on inside Lucy's mind to the audience with his talk of ignorance, knowledge, time and the nature of it all with what life is really about. They are big ideas, no doubt, but ideas that are typically unable to be grasped in a way that will satisfy an audience by the time the credits begin to roll. What Besson, in both his script and in his directing, does to resolve this issue is first give Freeman and Johansson plenty of interesting dialogue to spitball at one another including gems of ideas that mankind has created a scale to structure an unfathomable world or that ignorance is what brings chaos, not more knowledge. To pass on knowledge is in fact the sole purpose of life the film tells us and that time gives legitimacy to its and our existence. Everyone is after more time, but it's always been the one thing we can't get more of. These kinds of philosophical meanderings are what make the film as a whole worth investing in while Besson visually strikes this chord by using stock footage to illustrate metaphors such as when Lucy is being taken to Jang's office and we get intercut images of a cheetah hunting a gazelle. It is an unusual method to those accustomed to mainstream movie-going, but it heightens the tension of the scene a great deal while bringing that worldly scope of which Besson is alluding to throughout closer to the central events. Yes, Lucy is ultimately a silly little sci-fi film, but it is equally interesting and entertaining and breezes by with a pace that will have you welcoming it rather than walking away.