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Categories: Movie Reviews

Guest writer Cameron Johnson dips into Luc Besson’s Lucy…

Opening with glimpses of a cell undergoing mitosis and splitting in two and then switching to a view of an ancient ape drinking water from a serene lake, Lucy insists from the get-go that it wants to be taken seriously as a work of artistic science.

Soon we’re introduced to Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, an average student living in Taiwan whose boyfriend of one week, Richard, is trying to convince her to deliver a case for him into an ominous skyscraper.

“It’s fine, I’ve done this many times before” Richard encourages, “I’ll be right outside”. Yeah. Finally forced to deliver the case when Richard handcuffs her, Lucy enters the building and is apprehended by a group of very efficient drug dealers led by the fearsome Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik). After an entertaining scene when she is forced to open the case in front of a group of criminals protecting themselves with riot shields, Lucy discovers the contents of the case – a blue, powdery drug that her evil captors are transporting to Europe via the stomachs of unwilling conduits.

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Eventually Lucy too is subdued into carrying the mysterious drug in her stomach, and is chained in a prison cell with a huge bag of drugs inside her while Jang’s henchmen wait to put her on a plane. Scared and alone, Lucy fears the outcome of this unfortunate new job and is forced to endure assault by some of her captors until one of them kicks her in her stomach, releasing the blue substance through her veins and unlocking parts of her brain she had before been unable to use.

With a flash of blue in her eyes and a sequence where her body convulses trying to accept the drug much like the music video for “Turn Down for What”, Lucy instantly becomes a hyper-intelligent action heroine, skilled in everything from guns to languages and void of any emotion. Within minutes she’s escaped from her captors and is in a hospital, holding the doctors at gunpoint and crying to her mom on the phone about how she can feel every kiss she’s ever been given, and can remember things from when she was a baby.

Such is the confusing characterization Lucy presents. The drug, it turns out, is CPH4, the chemical that helps babies grow in the womb and in the dose Lucy has taken in it somehow allows her to slowly unlock more and more of her brain. Her body, however, cannot handle it and she needs more and more of the drug if she is to survive. Naturally, then, she begins a revenge mission where she attempts to hunt down all of the other carriers of the drug and take down the criminals producing it.

While this is all happening, we are shown intermittent clips of a professor played by Morgan Freeman (his name is irrelevant as he’s practically playing himself hosting “Through the Wormhole”) who explains the science he claims is behind the unlocking of brain capacity. I believed it more in Limitless but for some reason it was more compelling here.

Freeman’s lectures are backed by a ton of stock footage – more than I’ve ever seen in a film – that shows animals being their wild selves and humanity developing technology. It’s all exceptionally used and entertaining, though the film seems to stop using it half way through as it begins to focus on the more mundane action subplot involving Lucy and the drug lords.

Eventually Lucy and Freeman’s character do meet and the film becomes almost two stories at the same time: Lucy and a French police officer she meets (played by Amr Waked) fighting the drug lords, and Lucy and Freeman’s character trying to unlock the full potential of Lucy’s brain.

The latter story is far more interesting, as the action subplot doesn’t ever seem to go anywhere, nor do the criminals pose any danger whatsoever to Lucy, who can literally control everything and everyone.

The science subplot, which ends up going into some very 2001-esque hallucination sequences, is far more captivating and should have been given more screen time than it got. Ultimately, the story is exciting and very well-paced but lacks the focus to paint a full picture by the end. At 98 minutes, it’s a very quick ride, but the possibilities in the story call out for more.

Despite its shortcomings in characterization and plot, Lucy is a very fun film, full of the stupid science and ridiculous action we expect from a film of its variety.

Luc Besson, the Taken and Leon director, tells a mostly gripping story and employs some very excellent cinematography and effects to drive it along. There’s also humour, imagination and some top-notch performances.

I still don’t understand why Lucy lets the villains live long enough for them to be an integral part of the plot, as she could kill them with a snap of the finger and I was craving more of the humanity Lucy emits when she calls her mom in the hospital. Yes, the drug takes away her emotions but the film doesn’t seem to care about this effect on humanity.

Still, I recommend Lucy. Besson promised one part Leon, one part Inception, and one part 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he pretty much delivered. 

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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