Film review: Lucy - she's one smart cookie, and Luc Besson's back to his best

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 11:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 11:47pm

Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked, Choi Min-sik
Director: Luc Besson

Lucy is a wonderfully wacky return to form for maverick French director Luc Besson, who started his career by testing the limits of cinema with the atmospheric The Big Blue (1988), the razor-sharp thriller Leon: the Professional (1994) and the wild sci-fi romp The Fifth Element (1997).

Those productions set a standard that was always going to be hard to maintain, but here Besson is back to his best, conjuring up a script that makes its concepts plausible - even when they have no right to be - and setting a pace that never lets anyone (actors or audience) pause for rest or reflection.

The film is about a new drug that expands a person's brain capacity - based on the theory (or myth) that we only use, at most, 10 per cent of ours. Scarlett Johansson shines as Lucy, a young American waster living in Taiwan, who falls foul of a plan to export the drug and whose world is forever altered when she ingests some of the nasty stuff.

A great deal of the movie's success comes down to how believable Johansson makes Lucy's transformation: she gets smarter and smarter and harder and harder. Soon Lucy is able to lay waste to anyone who crosses her path while she tracks down a professor (Morgan Freeman) she thinks is the only person who might understand her dilemma, and benefit from the things she is learning.

Once the initial groundwork is laid, plot-wise, Besson lets us have it with both barrels as we bounce across the planet and prepare for a stunning final showdown. The director somehow manages to find the space and time to ponder the wonders of the universe, as he sees them, and you can either dwell on this aspect of the production or just soak up the impressive effects. Things are never so heavy handed as to intrude on the fun.

There's also the crossover of cultures, characters and languages that's similar in design and style to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's equally impressive Snowpiercer (2013). If these two productions are charting a course for the future of a truly international brand of cinema, there are exciting times ahead for audiences everywhere.

Extras: Cerebral Capacity - The True Science of Lucy featurette.