DIR/WRI: Luc Besson • PRO: Virginie Silla • DOP: Thierry Arbogast • DES: Hugues Tissandier • MUS: Eric Serra • CAST: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked
It’s the morning after for Lucy (Johansson), an American student who is outside a Taiwanese hotel with her new dodgy boyfriend. He has a dodgy delivery to make, and when she refuses to split the $1000 fee with him he handcuffs her to the briefcase – so she has to go in and make the drop to Jang (Choi).
Guns appear, Richard is shot, and Lucy finds herself opening the briefcase as all Choi’s goons hide behind riot shields. Inside the briefcase though are several packs of blue powder – some very special blue powder – and Choi offers the terrified Lucy a job.
It’s not really an offer: she wakes to find a bandage on her stomach and, like three other human drug mules, she’s given a passport and plane ticket and told to make the delivery. But before she even makes the plane, she’s beaten up in a strange cell – and the brutal kicking breaks open the drug packet inside her.
But this doesn’t lead to a fatal overdose; it rushes through her veins, blows her mind, throws her around the room like she’s caught in a hurricane, and makes her a near superhuman with inconceivable powers and abilities.
Elsewhere, neurological professor Norman (Freeman) is talking to an audience of academics and students about that very thing: since humans use just 10% of their brain (half that of a dolphin), what would happen if they could access the other 90%?
These two people are fated to meet, and when Lucy contacts French cop Del Rio, giving him unanswerable proof that he should round up the other drug mules quick smart, the race is on between Choi and Lucy: can she reach Norman in time to pass on what she’s learned? She needs regular doses of the drug to save her from falling apart – literally – and time is ticking: when she reaches 100% capacity she’ll cease to exist.
This high-actioner bears many of the hallmarks of a Luc Besson joint; thumping music, a Parisian car chase, gangs of gun-toting guys slow-mo shooting in corridors, and a fairly loose storyline. Lucy becomes a virtual God here for heaven’s sake, though she manages to easily deal with the astonishing overload she must be facing.
As will quickly become clear when you watch, this is Besson’s attempt to do Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in the 21st century. Early on we get regular cut aways to BBC-style documentary clips of nature raw in tooth and claw, and then we cut between them and Freeman’s sober intoning about the human mind.
It’s aiming high, and though the end sequence – Besson’s modern, special effects take on the tunnel of stars/wormhole/whatever it is from 2001: A Space Odyssey is certainly breathtaking and rather mind-boggling – there’s little emotion here.
The early regret Lucy voices that the more intelligent she becomes, the more her emotions fade (and the more she becomes less human) is about as profound as we get, Johansson becoming more a kind of mindless robot supercomputer as she gets nearer to 100%. Overall this often seems like a series of spectacular television commercials spliced with a selection of greatest sci-fi movie wish-list moments, but at a brisk 90 minutes this transcendental update of Besson’s 1990 Nikita is a ride worth taking.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Lucy is released on 22nd August 2014