I am not much of a fan of the ubiquitous Luc Besson (his previous effort, The Family, was one of my least favorite movies of 2013), but I found Lucy to be a rather exhilarating high-wire act that threatens constantly to fall flat on its face, yet never does. Even if you don’t enjoy the movie, you’d have to admit that Lucy dares to be different. It feels original and fresh even though it’s completely absurd. It is not stock summer entertainment.
Lucy borrows elements of Limitless, The Matrix and The Tree of Life and weaves them into a brisk 90 minute package of total cinema that goes all the way with its premise. I was looking forward to seeing this movie based on its trailer, but I had no idea the finished product would look as it does. And I’m grateful for that. The kick-ass action movie I was promised is actually something closer to...well, I have no idea. I was constantly surprised and never would have guessed in a million years where this story winds up. That’s an exciting prospect in an ever-predictable movie landscape.
Under the Skin and Her) and using her movie star charisma to help put over what could be daunting premises. Lucy is an interesting performance for her. The beginning of the movie portrays Lucy as a party girl and Johansson conveys that convincingly by channeling the flirty charm of her Natasha Romanov character in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but she adeptly switches gears as Lucy progresses. I think the movie is making the point that increased intelligence (and technology) de-personalizes the individual, and Johansson’s performance bears that out. Her performance becomes more flat, robotic and cold as the movie advances and Lucy’s mental capacity soars.
On the other end of the spectrum is Morgan “I’m cashing a check” Freeman, who truly needs to get off his ass and pick a part that requires him to act again. His part is Dr. Exposition, responsible for explaining the premise to the audience (literally in the context of the movie) and making sure we understand what will happen to our heroine over the next 75 minutes. I am a Freeman fan, but this shtick is wearing thin. He’s giving a Through the Wormhole performance here. I’m so bored by this once-great actor.
The movie has two great scenes I want to call out that are crucial to Lucy’s success. The first is the opening sequence that sets up the story in which Lucy is given a mysterious briefcase and has to deliver it to a group of gangsters. Right off the bat, the movie had me with its sense of danger and excitement. That immediate momentum never lagged for the rest of the movie. The second is a scene you don’t get often in this type of movie, where Lucy calls her mom and has a brief but heartfelt conversation with her. Not only does this scene make you care a little bit more about Johansson’s character, but also gives the movie some much needed heart. This is a story about a girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances and it’s sweet that one of her first reactions would be that she would want to call her mother. Many twenty-somethings have strong relationships with their parents; this is a fact that is often ignored in movies. Not in Lucy.
Lucy is also interesting thematically. I’m not sure how successful it gets its points across, but I think it has something to say about drugs (e.g. pills) as a promise of unlocking one’s potential and whether or not that’s a good thing. Also, the movie touches on what a person loses on their path to self-actualization – it could be their humanity.
Note: Lucy features a great score by Eric Serra (GoldenEye) and beautiful production design (Hugues Tissandier, Taken) and cinematography (Thierry Arbogast, The Fifth Element). It’s one of the best looking and sounding movies I’ve seen in a while.