It’s funny that Lucy and Guardians Of The Galaxy are playing right next door to each other in multiplexes all over the world. Rarely do audiences get to so clearly observe the phenomena of a film doing so little with so much under the same roof as a film doing so much with so little.
Of course with the latter I’m talking about Lucy, a film which thrives on giving audiences something they have never seen before, or in ways they have never seen before, which is one of the main reasons I go to the movies. Not only is Lucy the summer’s best blockbuster, but it, and movies like it, make sitting through hundreds of hours of crap each year, two of which included hearing “I am Groot” spoken a hundred times, well worth it. Additionally it is the best film director Luc Besson has made since La Femme Nikita, and it is one of Scarlett Johansson’s best performances, coming on the heels of the masterpiece Under The Skin, and last year’s Her, which strangely enough share quite a few contextual similarities with Lucy, a film about a woman exposed to a lethal dose of a new synthetic drug causing her to rapidly begin using more and more of her brain until she reaches 100%.
This film is insane. It explodes through its brisk eighty minute run time sans credits, as Lucy races against the clock of her ever-growing abilities, which basically makes her indestructible, like every superhero rolled into one, to collect all traces of the drug from all over the world. She enlists the help of a French detective who at one point actually voices a criticism I had of the screenplay, “why do you need me along?,” to which Lucy perfectly replies “to remind me what it’s like [to be human].” That’s how smart this film is, and how resonant. And of course crazy. As the final reel was unspooling I didn’t even know what the hell I was watching anymore, as seemingly all of creation, and all of humanity, including the very prescient feeling of being human that Under The Skin wormed its way into my very being, were distilled down to a single question that bookends Lucy, leaving the audience far more to ponder on the way out of the theatre than they had on the way in.
Tied to a creaky, all-too-familiar gangster plot line, as the drug dealers try to hunt her down too, with machine guns blazing, the brazen outlandishness of what is happening to Lucy takes advantage of the film’s economy and never outstays its welcome. Though I would have preferred a little quicker start (knowing how short the film was I got a little anxious to get to the non-stop parts), once Lucy gets going it can’t help but leave you exhausted AND wanting more.
And last but not least, Scarlett Johansson is fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more incredible hat trick from an actor before. With Her, Under The Skin, and Lucy Scarlett embodies three very distinct characters, while each represents a different philosophical question surrounding our existence. They are three very risky characters, and all of them paid off. I would say of the three though, the role of Lucy was the most challenging. I have no idea how I would begin to direct someone to show me the slow realization that everything that makes them human is slipping away, but looking into Scarlett Johansson’s eyes (and Besson’s lens gives ample opportunities) I believe her.
I suspect she won’t be remembered at all come Oscar time, nor will Lucy, already fading from the collective memory as it is, lost in a giant Marvel fart cloud. Like Under The Skin I suspect the more intimate experience of watching at home on what I expect will be an outstanding blu-ray transfer will much better allow the film’s voice to be heard within the bombast. Because Lucy is truly a one-of-a-kind film.
The Verdict: Rave