Lucy is a Luc Besson film.
I'm not saying that Lucy is a Luc Besson inspired film or a Luc Besson written film or a Luc Besson produced film.
Nope. Lucy is a Luc Besson film.
You should know what to expect next.
Lucy first off presents the inspired teaming of Besson with Scarlett Johansson, whose work as of late has been nothing short of inspired as the young actress has seemingly escaped from the Hollywood drivel that threatened to turn her into more sex object than actual actress.
In fact, I have a feeling that the real life Johansson already uses more than 10% of her brain, the theme behind Besson's visually arresting and intellectually thought-provoking Lucy.
Lucy doesn't always make sense and one could potentially surmise that Besson loses control at times of the film's central ideas, but I'm not completely convinced it isn't intentional. Luc Besson's films have always been extraordinarily experiential films, both emotionally and physically. It's not uncommon, at least for me, to feel tired at the end of even the simplest Besson action flick because Besson seems to be able to simultaneously pay attention to details while also throwing details out the window at a high rate of speed.
He does the same thing here.
Lucy begins with Johansson as a party girl grad student using right about 10% of her brain's power. Maybe. Maybe not. Forced to go on an errand for her boyfriend (Pilou Asbaek), she ends up forced into being a drug mule for a brutal gang and has sewn into her abdomen a remarkably volatile new substance that essentially enhances the essence of life and one's potential. Lucy, in turn and without much logic, becomes infected by the substance when it leaks out of the pouch and into her system.
Suddenly, the theory that had been so eloquently explained earlier in the film by a professor (authoritatively played by Morgan Freeman) that humans typically operate at 10% of their brain's potential is completely blown out of the water.
On some fundamental level, Lucy is about what happens when such a thing occurs and, not surprisingly for a Besson film, it is absolutely convicted with the idea that such a thing could occur. Lucy explores the actions, the thoughts, the emotions, and the experiences that accompany such a seismic shift in human potential as occurs here as we watch Johansson play a woman trying to integrate her growing awareness and understanding of everything that surrounds her.
There are moments of brilliance here. There are moments when I found myself watching the screen and thinking to myself "This doesn't even make sense," though if I'm being honest my brain power is probably running along 7-8% so I may just not comprehend it.
Johansson, again not surprisingly, gives a tremendous performance here in what could easily be seen as a sister performance to her remarkable vocal work in Her. This performance is actually a far quieter performance, yet it's everything you could want it to be and weaves itself perfectly into Besson's incredibly visual and experiential universe.
Lucy is bold and hypnotic, though it is occasionally bogged down by Besson's refusal (and I do think it's an intentional choice) to more fully explore the philosophical ramifications of everything that's going on here. Friend and fellow critic Christopher Lloyd observed that for a woman whose brain power is constantly increasing and heading towards that triple-digit intellectual mecca, she makes some remarkably illogical and unexplainable choices.
It's a valid observation. It's an interesting observation. In fact, I'd venture to say it's an observation that will occur to many more people and it'd have been nice if Besson had faced it head on. Instead, we're left to wonder is this illogical behavior borne out of one serious case of Adjustment Disorder or is it simply a filmmaker focusing more on visually interesting choices than intellectually satisfying ones?
You'll have to decide for yourself.
Regardless, Lucy is an immensely entertaining and satisfying film that thrives on the strength of Besson's visual style and Johansson's intelligent and emotionally honest performance that is, at times, almost aching because you can sense her humanity slipping away.
Maybe. Maybe not.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic