The first time I watched a film from Parisian writer/director Luc Besson was in 1997 with the release of The Fifth Element. From there, I discovered Leon (The Professional), a wonderful assassin thriller starring Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman. Since then, Besson has had a mixed bag of releases under his belt, from the poor (The Family) to the decent (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec) and now to the good. The very good. Lucy. Besson, then, is a director who can do great thigns but has been known to miss the mark. I feel like he hit the mark full-on here, with this sci-fi adventure with a great cast and a wonderful story.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) gets caught up in a deal gone-bad after bring instructed to deliver a suitcase to Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). Things turn bad and Lucy is forced into becoming a drug mule for Jang. Put into surgery and a bag of a new and potent synthetic drug places into her stomach, she is sent, along with other mules, to travel to a specific place with the drugs inside her. When she is attacked by one of Jang’s lackeys, the bag breaks and the powerful drug leaks inside Lucy’s body. The changes that happen to Lucy are incredible, and she finds that her mind is being unlocked, allowing her to do things she could never have imagined. Seeking help from an expert who has been dealing with the theory of unlocking the power of the human brain, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), Lucy seeks revenge against her captors who are also seeking her in order to get their drugs back.
The concept of the human brain being forced to open up due to a drug, allowing the person it is happening to a variety of powers and abilities, is a fantastic one, and one I thought was looked at in a very intriguing way by Besson. Johansson, as the titular Lucy, plays a character who is initially “normal”. She has obvious weaknesses that come with being human, and she is flawed like we all are. When she begins to find that her body is changing and her mind is opening up, she becomes a different character altogether, losing many of the character traits that made her human as she becomes a more calculated and cold personality, scientific and focused. Freeman is likeable and plays the curious professor who is attempting to figure out what is happening to Lucy, but finds himself merely astonished by what is going on. It’s a well assembled cast, with Johansson leading the pack with confidence and a brilliant performance.
It’s a fairly short film, and I think perhaps that is where the negative comment from me exists. I loved the film, the visuals and the performances. The story was incredibly well constructed, but I did feel like it could have been longer than it was. Around an hour and a half long, Besson could have stretched the material by another hour, or a half hour at least, allowing more investigation of Lucy’s changes and the things she is going through. Other than this, I find it difficult to be negative about a film that had so many interesting and original concepts, was visually mind boggling and kept me enchanted for its entire running time. The mixture of documentary footage, CGI trippy sequences and wonderful cinematography makes for a feast for the eyes, making Lucy the best looking movie of 2014 in my view. It isn’t all style though, there is so much substance here stuffed into its 90 minutes.
It is really exciting to see Luc Besson back on form here. I haven’t enjoyed one of his films as much since I watched Leon years ago, and feel like he struck gold with Johansson and the idea of this film. It is one that deserved your attention, and if you allow yourself to be captivated by it, then it is an incredible amount of fun. Brilliant.