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Lucy (2014)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

LUCY (2014)

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-Sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt

Written and Directed By: Luc Besson

The Short Version

Scarlett Johansson owns the screen with a lead effort that should make everyone take notice.

She’s backed by a wonderfully imaginative story from Luc Besson, imaginatively directed by the same.

Did I mention that it’s visually beautiful to behold, as well?

Oh, and drop the hard science arguments already, huh?  It’s a science fiction movie.

Lucy is one of the summer’s best movies, and well worth anyone’s time.

The Long Version

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Something right on that line between mellow and sharp.

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Historically, it’s the spirit of choice for French artistes, and it does bring about expansive thought processes.

“Life was given to us a billion years ago.  What have we done with it?”

There is science, and there is imagination.  There former is what makes the universe work, but it is through the latter that we as human beings are driven to make the most (or the least) of what can be done with it.  Therein lays the essence of science fiction.  Science is wonderful, but stories are fiction, and the true joy of experiencing them comes from the way those stories spark our imaginations.

Lucy is a fire starter.

In one part of the world, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman, Oblivion) gives a lecture about how human beings do not even come close to utilizing the full potential of their mental capacities, further speculating about what powers might be unlocked should some hypothetical individual start to exceed the norm.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, an American student named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), is tricked into becoming a drug mule for a nefarious smuggler named Mr. Jang (Min-Sik Choi, Lady Vengeance), after which things really start to go wrong.  Lucy is kidnapped, and when her refusal to be assaulted by her kidnapper gets her a hard kick to the stomach, the bag of an experimental drug that Jang’s surgeons have hidden inside of her begins to leak… and the consequences are truly mind blowing.  Neurons start to fire in ways they never have before, connections are made, realizations occur, and Lucy’s overall awareness increases by many orders of magnitude.  Within moments, she’s using her brain in ways that no human being has ever done before.  Who knows what she might be able to accomplish before her body breaks apart from the strain?

First order of business?  Escape from captivity…

Okay, folks.  I’ll start with the pointless elephant in the room.  We all know that the saying upon which this film’s premise is based – “humans use only 10% of their brains” – is either a total fallacy or is taken way out of context, depending on which scientific talking head’s viewpoint one prefers.  But you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s just the catalyst for a story.  Remember what we’re here for?  A story.  It doesn’t have to be dead on science-perfect; any more than The Terminator or Star Wars have to be.  (If you disagree, then I guess that means you hate just about all science fiction, in which case, what are you doing here?)  Hell, the generally inferior Limitless used the exact same starting point, and I don’t remember hearing people complain.  So let’s just get on with the stuff that matters, shall we?

What matters is that Lucy is a damn fine movie.  It’s entertaining, it’s thought provoking, and above all, it’s imaginative.  As a storyteller, Luc Besson has run wild with this one, and thanks to an outstanding lead effort from Scarlett Johansson, the end result gets taken to yet another level.  You don’t have to believe the science for Lucy to work; you just have to believe Scarlett Johansson, and she makes absolutely sure that you do.

It’s said that the title role in Lucy was originally meant for Angelina Jolie, but looking up at that screen, I can’t and don’t want to imagine that.  Scarlett Johansson’s interpretation of Besson’s character is fantastic; walking a unique knife edge of humanizing into reality a character that is rapidly becoming more than human while at the same time losing touch with her basic humanity.  Sound like a paradox?  On paper, it is, but she makes it work.  She plays the role with a deceptively effortless intensity that commands the audience’s attention at all times, keeping all eyes riveted whether she’s in the middle of an action sequence or just sitting still.  Flaws?  None that I can see.

With that in mind, major credit does also need to go to writer/director Luc Besson, not only for his imaginative story, but also for his no-holds-barred approach to presenting that story.  Besson doesn’t just switch back and forth between Dr. Norman’s lecture (which sounds suspiciously like an outtake from a “Through the Wormhole” episode) and the action happening to Lucy; he also freely tosses in footage from nature documentaries when he wants to underline a point.  When that’s not enough, he also pays a way-back visit or two to the first “true” human, also named Lucy.  In the hands of another director, this kind of thing could easily lead to disaster, but Besson not only makes it work, he makes it work well, so that the off-the-wall material truly enhances the story instead of distracting from it.  It’s an approach that can only be properly called “imaginative…”

…which brings us to the very core of what makes Lucy such an outstanding movie.  When all is said and done, it comes down to possibility and imagination.

The interesting premise, the wonderful lead performance, the off-the-wall-yet-tightly-contained direction, the beautifully realized visual effects, the surreal pursuit by the drug dealer who has no idea what his own product has unleashed… all of draws the viewer into not just Lucy’s world, but also into Lucy’s mindset.  Lucy as a film invites the audience to think expansively, to wonder, to imagine.  Lucy’s journey is quick – she does not at all overstay her welcome – but it stays with the viewer long afterward, starting a metaphorical fire, setting off a spark…

…and making the audience think, and feel, and wonder, and maybe, just maybe, take a small leap.  Not a Lucy-sized leap, of course – hers is a work of fiction, after all – but don’t all great leaps begin with smaller ones?

Bottom line, Lucy is an outstanding movie that deserves to be seen in a theatre now, and owned for the permanent collection later.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2014

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