For the second time in less than a year, Scarlett Johannson plays a character who disappears into the ether. In Her, she played an operating system, in Lucy, she is an actual human being who achieves 100 percent of her cerebral capacity. The film says that when we do so, we…well, I’m not sure what it says.
Johannson’s Lucy is a girl living in Taipei and attending school. She’s been dating some club rat (he sounds European) who finagles into her delivering a briefcase to some Chinese criminal. She ends up having a bag of drugs surgically implanted in her. When it starts to leak, she realizes she has abilities she never had before.
When the film was released in July there was some comparisons to Limitless, which was also about a drug that enhanced brain power. But this film, written and directed by Luc Bresson, is much more intellectually grounded. Limitless had the main character using his brains to play the stock market, while Lucy is able to read minds and manipulate matter.
I enjoyed most of Lucy, mostly due to Johansson’s performance and Bresson’s winking style. He uses stock footage of the animal kingdom to make his points, such as showing a gazelle being stalked by cheetahs when Johansson is surrounded by bad guys. The script is surprisingly intelligent, especially when Lucy tells brain expert Morgan Freeman that the only unit of measurement that matters is time.
The film offers plenty of mayhem for those that want it–there is a shootout in a library in Paris that offers more bullets than anyone could want–but the film kind of goes off the rails when Johansson is able to travel through time. At this point the film goes out of science fiction into Bresson’s fantasies, I think.
At 89 minutes, Lucy is also briskly paced. Normally an action-picture like this would be a bloated mess, but Bresson wisely boils it down to essentials, and we’re out of the theater in a reasonable time. Driving home, I took the film with me in my mind, looking around and wondering if what Johansson perceived is really the truth.
My grade for Lucy: B.