Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), a student studying in Taiwan, find herself an unwilling drug mule for crime boss Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). When she accidentally ingests the synthetic CPH4 which has been surgically implanted in her abdomen, she rapidly develops advance physical and mental abilities as the drug unlocks the unused parts of her brain. However, this process also puts her life in peril and she soon realises that she requires further doses of the CPH4 to stay alive. Striving to reconcile herself to her situation Lucy reaches out to Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), a neuroscientist and expert in the hidden capabilities of the mind. Meanwhile, Mr.Jang does not take kindly to interference in his drug trafficking and sets out to hunt down Lucy.
At first glance, the story for Lucy seems somewhat formulaic, based upon the popular misconception about the untapped potential of the human mind and how we as a species only use a small percentage of our brain capacity. However, Lucy is a movie, written and directed by Luc Besson, who brings a distinctly European aesthetic along with his own unique style to the proceedings. The exotic locations, the vivid colour palette and an eclectic international cast results in a curious ninety-minute genre hybrid that may polarise audiences. You will either buy into the far-fetched concept and enjoy the resulting cinematic journey or simply scoff in derision at the preposterous narrative. I happily chose the former option.
It takes a confident director to draw from such movies as Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Combining philosophical musings about the nature of consciousness with martial arts and gun play is another bold step. Yet it's all done with such aplomb that it broadly works. In an interesting plot twist, Lucy does not descend into megalomania when confronted with her god like powers. Instead the film explores her melancholic attitude towards the impending loss of her "humanity". There are parallels with character of Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, who faces a similar crisis. Lucy also addresses modern day society's dependence upon the internet and social media, which is another timely theme. Especially in light of Stephen Hawking recent comments about AI and the potential impact it may have upon the world.
Lucy hinges upon the lead performance by Scarlett Johansson and she is extremely watchable as she slows down time, shoots sundry henchmen with pinpoint accuracy and merges with the digital world. The visual effects are striking and the entire film benefits from its rapid pace and overall French sense of panache. It is also pleasant to see such a storyline of this nature based around a female lead and I enjoyed the reference to Lucy sharing her name with the first human being. I feel it is a superior film to Bradley Cooper's 2011 movie, Limitless that shared a similar theme. Lucy also addresses the perennial (and tedious) question about whether a female lead can carry a modern action movie. The answer is a resounding yes.