Lucy is the latest project from French writer / director Luc Besson who I know and love for being the mastermind behind The Fifth Element. It stars Scarlett Johnasson as the eponymous heroine and is supported by Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked and Min-sik Choi.
If you’ve seen the trailer you’ll know that the premise of the film but the main character is Lucy who is a slightly naive student spending some time off in Taipei or Taiwan depending on your political leaning. While there she begins a romance with a dubious young gentleman who pressures her to deliver a suitcase to the mysterious Mr Jang (Choi). When she refuses he handcuffs her to the mini suitcase leaving Lucy with no choice but to enter a hotel and ask for Mr Jang. It is at this point that things spiral out of control.
I love, love, love this film. Generally I prefer a build up to the action and strong character development but in this case within minutes the viewer is thrown straight into the action and the pace never really lets up. The film is wrapped up in a little under 90 minutes and is a demonstration of what you can pack into a relatively short time frame – are you paying attention Mr Bay and Mr Jackson.
The first thing to say is that Scarlett Johnasson is excellent in the lead role and the fear she shows when confronted by the viciousness of Mr Jang is unsettling. She transforms the character of Lucy as she unlocks more of her brain and becomes more of a computer. She is ably supported in her quest by Freeman the gentle professor / film narrator and Waked as the heroic French police officer.
It is a film about ideas as much as it is about action as should be the way in any true sci-fi picture. The main theme is the power of motherhood and the strength of women. During the film we are introduced to an ancient relative of man, the oldest known female descendant, who is also called Lucy. She who gave birth to us all. The material that is in the suitcase (CPH4) is described as a synthetic form of a hormone produced by women during pregnancy to help give the foetus / unborn baby a boost in development. During one of his pieces of narration, Professor Norman, talks about the need for cells to either reproduce or choose immortality. It’s all reinforcing the same message.
Time is also at the heart of this film. Lucy’s character as she is comes close to unlocking the full power of her brain speaks of the irrelevance of any unit of measure other than time. Other units of measure are man’s petty attempts to bring order to the Universe and simplify the world in way that he / she can understand.
It is interesting that as her brain capacity increases Lucy’s humanity reduces and she starts to distance herself in a very logical way. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a warning but the message appears to be that mankind’s faults are what makes us human for better or for worse.
There is action in this film and it features a fantastic car chase that for me has distinct French influence and reminds me of the Bourne films in that we see real cars having real crashes. Lucy doesn’t use lethal force at any point in the film and while she fails to show empathy at times she is working for the greater good. I could understand why some might find this a little too good to be true.
Besson shows clear ambition in this film and there is a clear reference back to 2001: A Space Odyssey in that we get the entire history of the Universe plus a peak at the future of mankind. I struggled to find any fault in it and it made me think that this was the type of film Transcendence wanted to be (although I am one of that projects few defenders). Lucy has a good chance of featuring in the list of my favourite films come the end of the year.