Review: Lucy – Luc Besson

By Lucia Watson

Scarlett Johansson plays a highly evolved drug mule in this sci-fi action film from director Luc Besson. I must admit I don’t usually go for the mainstream box office hits, but the idea of a mainstream film that passes the Bechdel test piqued my curiosity. Lucy follows the story of a young American ex-pat living in Taiwan and becomes involved in a drug trafficking ring. This ring is led by the intimidating Mr. Jiang, played by Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame (the most badass piece of Korean film out), who turns Lucy and three others into drug mules after an ordeal involving lots of guns and drugs. The film begins with what I can only guess is a drug war between the Korean mafia and Taiwanese gangsters, but things get freaky pretty quick.

The premise of the film is based off the idea that we mere mortals only use 10 per cent of our brain, but when ScarJo absorbs the package of a new fun designer drug, her brain inexplicably begins to “gain access” to supposedly unused parts of her brain (yay for Hollywood science!). This is where things begin to kick off, and Lucy turns into a superhuman, gangster-fighting machine on a quest for retribution. Scarlett Johansson plays the enlightened Lucy with a cold, calculating reserve that is almost psychopathic in nature.

Her quest for revenge sends her to the door of Professor Norman, played by Morgan Freeman. And this is where things started to fall apart for me. The premise of the film itself is an interesting idea (despite its basis in pseudoscience), but as Lucy begins to gain access to more of her brain, things go from pseudoscience to fairy tale.

The film is full of unresolved issues and details left unexplained. It also left me with an overwhelming sense of disappointment at what could have been 2014’s answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Though the character of Lucy was, I think, intentionally two-dimensional, in a sense there was no real character development before the action took place. Though Lucy is supposedly the “strong female protagonist”, you still know next to nothing about her except that she was taken advantage of by the Korean mafia and now she’s pretty much the messiah.

I digress; I could go on about how Lucy doesn’t further the cause of women in film, but that shall be saved for another time. What I will say is that despite plot holes and missing details, there was some really interesting cinematography. The film features brief snippets of stock footage of the animal kingdom, intended to show us how humanity is no different from the rest of the living creatures on this planet. We are, after all, just trying to survive. I think therein lies the central idea behind the film: What drives us to keep living?