It’s fair to say that the prolific French filmmaker Luc Besson has made too many underwhelming pictures of late – and that’s being kind. His once valued writing credentials have recently spawned the likes of The Family, Taken 2 and Brick Mansions, and the less said about all three of those the better, as they strive to compel and entertain and yet any such efforts feel so contrived. However his latest, Lucy, is stylistic and engaging, and a real return to form for the director, mastering a genre he was partly responsible for pioneering.
Scarlett Johansson takes on the eponymous lead role, who is forced into delivering a briefcase to the elusive Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik), when a romantic fling (Pilou Asbæk)
However following an altercation with one of Jang’s henchmen, the package opens inside of her and copious amounts of the electric blue substance seeps into her blood stream. Though instead of killing her, it allows for her unlock the mind’s full potential, and use up to 100% of the brain rather than the 10% human beings are restricted to. With powers that can only be described as being superhuman, she seeks vengeance on those who put her in this situation, while desperately trying to reach the renowned Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).
There is no denying that Lucy is a completely daft, illusory and nonsensical a piece of cinema, but it’s incredibly good fun and immensely captivating, almost mesmerising in its approach. For use of a better word, Lucy is inherently cool, as the pulsating, atmospheric soundtrack combined with the slow motion action sequences, make the hairs on the back of your neck stand tall, as you become immersed and engrossed into this universe. Stylistically, Lucy is a hugely memorable piece, though Besson’s unsubtle use of archive footage and imagery to make a point is detrimental to proceedings. When Lucy arrives at the hotel in the opening sequence to deliver the briefcase to Jang, we get a sense that she feels like a lamb to the slaughter, as though she’s being hunted down by her prey. We’re able to make that comparison, and a more confident filmmaker would appreciate that. However Besson needlessly implements footage from a nature documentary, of animals being hunted, pushing the metaphors right into our face.
It’s one of very few shortcomings however, as Johansson illuminates the screen with a terrific leading performance. The transformation from the opening act, where Lucy is afraid and vulnerable, is remarkably different to when we see her following the accident, where she’s portrays a unique aptitude – which we saw in Under the Skin – to have such a vacant, almost detached look behind her eyes, and yet subtly maintain a degree of emotion that lives within her. Morgan Freeman also impresses, playing Morgan Freeman, effectively. Though predictable to some degree, it’s safe to say he’s pretty darn good at it. Better than most, you could argue.
Lucy is just a film that takes an intriguing (albeit absurd) narrative, and builds a world around it that is easy to get lost within. You just need to be sure not to take this one at face value, as you should never lose sight of the fact this is all fiction, because if you were to analyse this too fastidiously, the flaws will become apparent, and your enjoyment will suffer accordingly. Instead, try to appreciate this as director returning to what he does best – as following on from Leon and Nikita, comes another film that shows that, sometimes, Besson may just be capable of using more than 10% of his brain himself.