I knew I was going to enjoy Lucy as soon as Éric Serra’s score kicked in over the surreal opening credits. Serra, who has scored such films as Léon, GoldenEye and The Fifth Element, often teams with director Luc Besson (Léon, The Fifth Element) whose distinctive blend of French and Hollywood filmmaking has earned him recognition and respect in the wide world of moviemaking.
Lucy, as such, benefits from having a strong visionary in writer-director Besson and the final product definitely evokes his past work. The first third of the movie feels very much in line with Léon. It’s in this act that we meet Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), an innocent woman tricked into being a drug mule. The tone is bloody and brutal, quickly establishing that Lucy is in well over her head.
It’s the second act that sees Lucy exposed to the new synthetic drug that she’s trafficking. This allows her to tap into more of her brain’s capacity, granting her superhuman abilities such as telekinesis and various other godlike powers. The downside is that Lucy immediately transforms from a vulnerable damsel to a cold, calculating and detached individual who’s virtually unstoppable. For a film that’s been promoted as somewhat of a sci-fi action thriller, Lucy’s invulnerability saps almost all tension from the story. There’s action, sure, and it’s well produced but it’s lacking that crucial risk to get you to the edge of your seat.
This makes it difficult to become invested in the story, which also introduces Morgan Freeman as Professor Samuel Norman, a character whose role is to fill us in on the pseudo-science of human brainpower. Lucy tracks down Norman to help her with her developing condition, but the sci-fi aspects simply aren’t as clever or thoughtful as the genre greats – Limitless did the same premise better. It all gets a bit weird in the end, although Besson’s strength as a visual director still shines through. I enjoyed the film’s look, score, action and acting, so it’s a shame that Lucy isn’t a medal contender in any field. It’s a fun watch for a plane flight but it’s not meaty enough at a meagre 89 minutes to flesh out its core elements and make a lasting impression.