Having earned nearly $500 million at the worldwide box office by now, the most recent offering from writer/director Luc Besson to hit Pay-Per-View is non-stop fun, a thrill-ride that doesn’t let up, escalating its essential awesomeness until the screen abruptly goes black. Along the way, the audience is treated to a superb combination of explosive action and high-concept theorizing about the nature of humanity and the power of the unleashed mind. Wether any of it is scientifically accurate is absolutely beyond the point because the film is a great ride, managing to be a piece of wish-fulfillment that makes you forget the horror of its establishing premise.
That establishing premise is that two minutes after the film begins, title character Lucy, as played by Scarlett Johansson, a party-girl college student living in Taiwan is forced to be a drug mule for a gangster (played by the great Choi Min-Sik of Oldboy (2003) fame). Playing the ‘wake up in a hotel room to find your organs have been harvested’ motif in reverse, Lucy wakes up to find that a bag of new designer super-drug CPH4 has been sewn inside her guts and she has to deliver it. When the bag leaks, rather than OD’ing, Lucy is catapulted along the evolutionary chain, going from 10% cerebral capacity to 100% and becoming a godlike super-human in the process.
Though the idea that we only use ten percent of our brains has been debunked though the years, the premise still makes for a fascinating watch. Good sci-fi/action movies need rules; if X then Y. When Lucy’s at 20% cerebral capacity she can control other people. When she’s at 40% she can control matter. When she’s at 60% she can…and so on. I won’t spoil the ending for you, although even if I told you every single thing that happens in the film I couldn’t spoil it for you, since the film’s overall execution is outstanding on every level.
Writer/director Luc Besson of course specializes in high-octane action pictures. He has been especially prolific in his career, having directed 21 films so far including such classics as La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element, not to mention launching the Transporter and Taken franchises. Lucy features some of his classic hallmarks: mind-blowing car chase sequences, gun play, crisp editing and bang, bang, bang plot points that don’t waste any of the audience’s time. The film also features some images and ideas that would probably appeal to Terrence Malick: cycles of life and rebirth, primitive forbears, spirit guides, dinosaurs, and bears fucking, which is a pretty sweet combination.
Scarlett Johansson, meanwhile, has put together what would be the career defining envy of any actress who had ever lived over the course of the last eighteen months, including her disembodied performance in Spike Jonze’s look at the future of relationships, Her, as well as her equally fascinating embodied performance as a space alien in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, both of which are brilliantly great–and so is Lucy.
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