What if a human was able to tap into 100 percent of their brain capacity rather than 10 percent? That is the main idea that drives French director Luc Besson’s new action thriller ‘Lucy.’ Besson is a master at showcasing strong female heroes in his films. This is evident in his earlier works including ‘La Femme Nikita’ (made into an American version called Point of No Return), ‘Leon: The Professional’ (who can forget Natalie Portman’s film debut?) and ‘The Fifth Element’ (proving Milla Jovovich is more than a pretty face). Although ‘Lucy’ moves from a suspenseful pulp fiction thriller to a far-fetched science fiction odyssey, this film works for the simple reason that Scarlett Johansson is so darn captivating in the lead femme fatale role.
The opening sequence is brilliant. We see Scarlett Johansson drinking from a straw with short blonde hair and wearing a cool leopard print jacket. She tells her dirtbag boyfriend that she has to study. She’s an exchange student in the Chinese city of Taipei. He wants her to deliver a briefcase into a hotel lobby. She senses something is wrong but before she can walk away he cuffs her to the case. As Lucy reluctantly walks up to the front desk, the terror on her face is palpable. The situation quickly gets worse when she is forcibly escorted to a fancy high-rise penthouse suite where she meets Asian gangster Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi). The contents of the briefcase are revealed as a new recreational drug the gangsters want to sell to club kids in Europe. It’s a Cobalt blue looking crystal called CHP4 that we are told is a synthetic version of a substance pregnant mother’s secrete to help the fetuses grow. “For a baby, it packs the power of an atomic bomb.”
Before we can catch a breath, Lucy is forced into becoming a drug mule. She wakes up with an incision across her abdomen. They inserted a bag of CHP4 into her stomach! When the drug leaks into her body, she turns into an assassin with superhuman powers. Fasten your seatbelts! It’s an effortless performance from Johansson. I’m so impressed with her edgy film choices lately. She was terrific playing the computer operating system voice in ‘Her.’ She was also equally impressive as a creepy alien in the surreal arthouse film ‘Under the Skin.’ She is so charismatic that no matter how ridiculous the plot gets and it gets nonsensical, she keeps you enthralled. There is a poignant moment in the film when she makes a final call to her mother. It’s right before she transforms from helpless party girl to empowering superhero. One effect of the drug is remembering everything she’s ever experienced. She tells her mother, “I can remember the taste of your milk.” It sounds weird but it’s actually touching.
As the film moves along, we’re reminded how the drug in Lucy is giving her more brain power. As it approaches 100 percent, the film shifts gears into ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘Matrix’ territory. How do we make sense of what’s happening to Lucy? Let me introduce you to Morgan Freeman who is a leading researcher on brain capacity. If anyone can make sense out of all this, it’s Mr. Freeman who has to be the benchmark of authority in science fiction movies that make us scratch our heads. As Lucy’s brain capacity gets more powerful, this film gets really trippy. She gains the capacity to control time and space. I’m not kidding. Her powers get so refined that she doesn’t even need to pick up a gun anymore and blow away the bad guys. Lucy acquires telekinetic powers. It sounds preposterous but like a car accident you cannot help but gawk at the proceedings.
‘Lucy’ is a solid popcorn film thanks to Johansson making it a fun ride. Check out the official trailer http://youtu.be/bN7ksFEVO9U.