Luc Besson is no stranger to creating strong female leads in his films. From The Professional to The Fifth Element and now Lucy, the man has a gift. But where does Lucy rank among the anti-heroines of Besson’s past?
Scarlett Johansson is Lucy, and as the audience begins her journey with her, she’s dating a man for barely a week when he compels her into a Taiwan hotel where her life will forever change. She’s handcuffed to a briefcase and promptly taken to a room where she has experimental drugs surgically implanted in her system. When she’s kicked in a melee, the drugs enter her system and allow her to access more and more and more of her brain power.
Besson’s obsession with the science of evolution is all over this film in the largest sense, as well as his keen knowledge about neural cells in its smallest. And he has done his research and peppered his film with verbal and video proof of the science he is fictionally exploring on the screen.
It’s a head scratcher of a film meets an action fiesta that has clear shades of some of Besson’s past work. And the way he cuts in his music is another impeccable means with which the director brings in emotion. One scene in particular with his use of Mozart’s Requiem in D is beyond brilliant. If you know the history of that piece of music, it could not be more perfect given Lucy’s ride.
Johansson was born to play Lucy. The way she morphs from innocent to impatiently imperious genius is brilliant. Watching her simultaneously seek revenge on her kidnappers while also helping the science of evolution evolve as a living experiment, is a true joy. And in that vein, Morgan Freeman’s turn as an expert in the field of the human brain and its capacity for intelligence versus what humans truly access, is his best role in years.
Yet, Lucy’s journey in some ways feels slightly incomplete. Its third act is not what we expected and that is not necessarily a bad thing. When one is chronicling the experience that is a human being using their full brain capacity and all that that means, while still featuring an action movie landscape that cooks, it is quite a lot to ask of any movie.
Our Lucy review finds that Johansson’s performance makes this movie and Besson’s intelligence and talents as a filmmaker give us something profound to think about. And as far as where it ranks in the Besson filmography, it's somewhere easily in the top half.
Watch The Fifth Element online and head out to see Lucy.