Spoilers be here. Enter at yer own risk mateys!
Director Luc Besson has done a few Science Fiction and Fantasy movies. The most obvious is The Fifth Element (1997), with Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich. Less well known is The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec (2010), based on the book of the same name. I saw this one recently and it translated to a movie which seemed less than the sum of its parts.
Lucy on the other hand, despite the inaccurate science, delivers on a number of fronts.
The first is presenting us with a strong female lead, in Scarlett Johansson whose filmography is seemingly now stuffed with strong female characters, including Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, the nameless alien in Under the Skin, and now Lucy.
The movie opens a’la 2001 with apes on the savannah and a montage of imagery bringing us to the present day. The entire movie hinges on a single conceit: that humans only use a small percentage of our brains.
Lucy is a normal young woman who’s fallen in love with a man who turns out to be a drug runner. It is the beginning of her troubles when he emotionally blackmails her into delivering a case into a hotel.
Scarlett plays the very vulnerable, naive young woman with as equal vigour as the woman she becomes. An experimental drug is introduced to her system thanks to a violent encounter with another man. The drug causes an extreme reaction, not just because it was sewn into Lucy’s body as a way to smuggle it into another country. But far from merely killing her, it begins to expand her consciousness and awareness of the world and universe around her. From here on, we get full screen status reports of how much of Lucy’s brain is now being accessed.
The chase movie begins at this point.
Lucy needs to find (a) the other drugs to complete her journey to become a god, and (b) someone who can help her. The first part is easy thanks to the help of law enforcement and Amr Waked, a Paris detective. The second is achieved with the help of Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman who is the pre-eminent brain scientist on the planet.
But there’s enemies afoot, namely Mr Jang (Min Sik Choi) the head honcho of the drug cartel that Lucy finds herself embroiled with. He’s got money riding on the delivery of the drugs and since Lucy has gone AWOL and massacred his drug runners, then had the audacity to go to the cops and round up the other drug mules, he’s rather hoping to teach her a lesson.
What happens next is really for you the viewer to find out. What I will say is that the movie is a well executed adventure with villains who might be regarded as cartoony in nature. However, Lucy is all about the ride, and Luc Besson doesn’t disappoint. We’re propelled through the movie at a rate of knots; as Lucy’s brain power expands, so too does the movie accelerate until, finally we’re delivered an answer, and a cliffhanger preceded by guns and explosions.
To be sure, Lucy is not the most scientifically accurate movie out there. However, I’d argue that of the science fiction movies that are continually churned out by Hollywood, it’s better staged, better scripted and better directed than just about anything else (bar, perhaps, the seminal Gravity). It delivers on its premise with a clever and engaging script and doesn’t drop the ball.
I’m giving this 4/5 with a point drop because we really don’t only use a small part of our brain.
Lucy is available on DVD on the 4th of December 2014.