I have followed Luc Besson’s career for a long time. I fell in love with his writing from the film La Femme Nikita (1990). He never disappoints in making action films that are balanced with a good, interesting and engaging stories. Lucy is a big “what if” story that urges us to think about what we have done with our time here on the planet. Well, I have spent 90 min of my time watching a visually stunning story about the possible capacity for the human evolution. I am green lighting this film. Mr. Besson does not disappoint.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a girl who is studying in China. Her boyfriend needs her to drop off a package at a hotel for Mr. Jang (Min-sikChoi). This quick drop off sweeps her up into the darker side of the underground drug trafficking business in China. She gets shanghaied into being a drug mule. The drug runners rough her up and she gets a dose of the drug she is smuggling. Her reaction to the drug gives her access to 20% of her brain, this gives her control over her body and she starts down an accelerated evolutionary track. During her journey she gets the help of a Paris Detective, Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), and Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman). Her evolution takes her to 100% control over her brain and the next phase of human evolution.
The trailer leads one to believe there were going to be more crunchy bits to the film—the kind of graphic violence where you hear the “crunch” of broken bones and dislocated joints. It’s graphic but very little in the way of hand to hand fighting. The action focuses more on the use of guns and superhuman abilities. Action move directors need to learn the balance that Luc Besson employs in his films. Action is there to enhance the story, not be the focus. If the action becomes a distraction, it needs to be dialed back. Cough… Michael Bay.. cough, cough.
This film brings up questions of where we are going, what we are doing with this incredible gift we take for granted. A good story brings up these concepts without giving you the answers. This movie is one that makes for some good conversations over pie.
Scarlett Johansson’s performance during this film starts out as one character and then her evolution requires her to embody a being that transcends our existence. She becomes more and more distant as the film continues. Morgan Freeman always does a good job and this is not his first Besson film. They have worked together a number of times. The first memorable role this collaboration had was in Unleashed. As always his characters are all spectacularly done.
The last film I saw with Amr Waked he played a royal prince in the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. His portrayal of a gritty Paris Detective comes off without a hitch showing off his range of characters. He also plays Lucy’s connection to humanity. Her journey takes her so far beyond our existence that she needs something to remind her of what she once was. This is the only criticism I have. He was supposed to be an anchor for her but he was more like a pet or a trinket that she brought with her. We never really understand what is so special about him that makes him her touchpoint.
Min-sik Choi wears the bad guy role well. He reminds me of a Korean Gary Oldman from the other Besson film, The Professional. A wonderful touch in this film is the lack of sub titles in the initial scenes with Lucy’s abduction. This brings the viewer into the feeling of not knowing what is going on and adds to the tension between the characters. It is a wonderful performance from Min-Sik Choi, his cold lifeless eyes are the icing on the scene. He has also lost touch with humanity for a completely different reason.
Luc Besson writes strong characters and all of them have a rich depth to give them savory believability. He writes with a firm balance between the ugliness and the beauty that humanity has. Getting people to feel for your characters is the hardest thing to do as a writer. His keen sense of how to bring that out in the script and on screen is masterful.
The take away I get most is how the film focuses on how much of a gift life is. I am sitting in a coffee shop reflecting on the 90 min ride I just got out of and I am feeling like I could be doing a whole lot more with my time. I can’t use 20 % of my brain, hell sometimes I don’t even use the 10% I am supposed to. I can’t change the world or my molecules.
I can change what I choose to spend my 10% on. I think I am going to focus on doing more on the things I enjoy doing that bring me closer to the things I want in my life. This kind of thinking is not necessarily what you would expect a person to be thinking walking out of an action film. It is what you walk away with when you walk out of a good film.