If there was an award granted for the most emotionless, yet stylish killer on screen then Scarlett Johansson would be running high in contention this year. Following on from her role as the assassin Black Widow in the Marvel franchise films, and more recently as the ice-cold alien protagonist in Under the Skin, Luc Besson’s Lucy is the current high point of Johannson’s detached, homicidal trend.
Based around the idea that human beings only use around 10% of our brain’s capacity, Lucy is a fast-paced, gun-laden exploration of what would happen if we could possibly unlock more. A trailer
touting the 10% line caused some mild ruffling when released earlier in the year for perpetuating what is essentially an urban legend about how our brains work; but Besson makes it clear within the opening minutes that Lucy takes place in the world of science fiction, not fact.
We meet Lucy as an exchange student in Taiwan, where she unwittingly falls in with the wrong crowd – cue Choi Min-Sik (Oldboy) as Mr. Jang, the diabolical leader of a Korean drug gang who
forces Lucy to become a mule. The bag of the new narcotic she is smuggling bursts and triggers increasingly potent superpowers as she tries to figure out the purpose of the universe while taking
out hordes of dapper gangsters in a globe-trotting trip that is punctuated by routine communication from Morgan Freeman as a sagely Professor who offer the only hope of understanding what will
happen to her.
The fact that Lucy rarely pauses to clarify or justify its own logic means it barrels along at a relentless pace – a journey from imprisonment to omnipotence in less than 90 minutes is a mean feat by
any standards. Besson’s quirkier side is on full display here too, with continued juxtaposition of stock footage that cuts in to the action, playing on universal themes of suffering and death. As Lucy is waiting to meet with Mr. Jang for the first time we cut a furtive glance of a gazelle, then we momentarily glimpse the smooth stalk of a cheetah as Jang approaches. Alongside the stock footage
we get some far out cosmic visuals – lending a slight Koyaanisqatsi feel to the proceedings.
Lucy is a fantastically odd kind of film that doesn’t take itself seriously, and manages to be thought-provoking. That Besson sidesteps the gravity that can be associated with this type of thought-
experiment narrative will undoubtedly divide audiences. On the one hand, you’ll have the people whose experience will be scuppered by the logical loopholes inherent in Lucy; on the other hand
you’ll have people who value the act of walking impassively away from an explosion above all other life experiences. It is the latter group that will get the most from this, as once you wrap your head around the comic book style world that Lucy operates in, it is a whole lot of fun – watch it with your brain set at around 1%.