In a summer full of blockbusters with brains, acclaimed director Luc Besson gives us ‘Lucy’, a sci-fi film that explores the maximum potential of the human psyche. Scarlett Johansson stars in the titular role, continuing her recent streak of forward-thinking performances. Set around the grubby Taiwanese underworld, Lucy finds herself in trouble with a local drug lord, and her bloodstream is subjected to a deadly amount of a synthetic substance which lets humans use more than the usual ten percent of their brain capacity. This leads her to track down scientist Professor Samuel Norman, played by Morgan Freeman, who has years of research dedicated to the topic. Will his wealth of knowledge be enough to save Lucy, or will the symptoms prove to be fatal?
On paper, the plot is preposterous and on screen it’s no different but if you put the ridiculousness of it to one side, it is hugely entertaining. All the boxes are ticked for a successful popcorn movie – it has a car chase, an attractive blonde, shades of violence and of course, Morgan Freeman delivering a lengthy monologue. The ambitious scale of the project is illustrated by striking graphic elements, such as the visualisation of phone signals and the abrupt cutting between human interactions and unrelated scenes of animals in the wild in an Apocalypse Now-esque manner to symbolise a correlation between the two. These arty moments feel separate from the core of the film and don’t always fit naturally with the story development, and as the film reaches its closing stages, things go from eccentric to downright bonkers.
In the past year or so, we’ve seen Scarlett Johansson play a computer operating system in Her, a Weegie-stalking alien in Under the Skin and now a physics defying superhuman. She seems to really like the unorthodox parts of late, and with a screen presence as powerful as hers, she makes it all look so easy. As her character transitions into an almost robotic state, she comes across as forceful, commanding and at times scary, yet we are still able to sympathise with Lucy’s situation. Whilst Johansson’s portrayal has many layers, and transforms throughout the film, Morgan Freeman is essentially Morgan Freeman. He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time to be fair, but when he does he does nothing to steal the show from the lead. I should mention supporting actor Julian Rhind-Tutt who is very effective as a sleazeball associate of the mob boss Mr Jang.
Flawed in its overreaching scope, ‘Lucy’ is still definitely worth seeing for Johansson alone. The film is undoubtedly well made, with filmmaker Luc Besson maintaining his keen eye for a good shot. As director, writer and editor, perhaps he has taken on a little too much this time, and without a creative collaborator, has had nobody to bounce the crazy ideas off of. Despite the problems the film has, it is at least another fantastic example of Scarlett Johansson’s talents. She is an unstoppable force and as Lucy, she gives 100%.