Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucy: I AM Everywhere - A Review

L uc Besson likes to tell stories.  And we like to hear them.  "Lucy" is Besson's latest action – Sci-Fi drama.  Starring Scarlet Johansson, the film, on its very basic level is about a young woman who is forced to work as a drug mule.  Against her will, she will carry dangerous drugs from Asia, to Europe.  Something happens to the girl along the way that causes her to expand her mind, giving her the ability to wreak havoc on the drug lords that enslaved her.  Min-sik Choi Is Jang the drug lord and the film’s villain.  Morgan Freeman ("Through the Wormhole") plays a neuroscience with a theory concerning a human's ability to access fully their cortical capacity.  As a direct fact, this doesn't work, but as a metaphor for the evolutionary leaps that humankind takes, it does.  "Lucy" is a fun action film that touches on some heavy subjects, but not to be taken too seriously.  Besson is one who doesn't let facts get in the way of drama or entertainment.  Why should you?

The film starts as a scientific version of the story of creation.  Cells divide and synapses fire, Professor Norman (Freeman) continues his lecture, and reaches a point where he declares that life has a choice of immortality or recreation depending on the environment.  If the environment is hazardous then a life form will choose immortality.  Or if the environment is calm and stable then the life form will choose to procreate.  Animals mating and various images depicting evolution appear on screen, as the professor lectures.  Images flash on the lecture screen of the prehistoric savannah, a river with a small hominid creature drinking water.  Norman discusses various aspects of his theory that leads him to proclaim that humans only use 10% of their cortical capacity.  Don't get hung up on this claim, as Prof. Norman mentions later, "It is only a theory."

Lucy (Johansson) and her recent hookup Richard (Pilou Asbæk), casually dressed, straw cowboy hat, sunglasses and a large smile, tries to talk Lucy into going into the Taipei hotel and ask for a Mr. Jang and deliver a metallic suitcase.  Lucy, of course, is wary.  Whimsical music plays in the background, as Besson juxtaposes wildlife footage of a cheetah stalking its prey.  Lucy just met the guy, (images of a nightclub, and extensive party scenes flash in her head) after a few minutes of Richard trying to convince her, she starts to walk away.  Richard handcuffs her arm to the suitcase: the cheetah pounces on its prey.  From now on Lucy is no longer in control of her fate.  Poor judgment led her to this path and now she has no choice but to follow the path.  

A gunfight ensues in the lobby and Lucy is taken to see Jang.  Several thugs lead her to a room where she encounters Jang.  An older man, whose purpose now is deciding which individual, is suitable mule material.  After several bloody rejects, Jang, through an interpreter on the phone goes through an exchange that is both horrifying and hilarious at the same time.  Playing Jang is Min-sik Choi who was absolutely evil in "I Saw the Devil," and tormented and vengeful in "Oldboy.”  In Lucy, he is both ruthless and cruel to the very end.  Inside the case are several bags of a blue crystalline substance called CPH4.  Is it Walter White's Blue Crystal Meth?  The goal is to distribute the drugs via a set of mules to London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome.  Lucy is set for Paris.

After waking up with the drugs sown inside of her, her wound is still healing when she is subjected to abuse by some lowlife tugs, as opposed to the high-class thugs in Choi's employ.  The bag is ruptured and the effects of the overdose are immediate.  Lucy experiences uncontrollable levitation and psychokinesis.  Professor Norman, on the other side of the world, is still lecturing about what happens if a human reaches 20% of capacity, and with Lucy we see the effects, also juxtaposed with corny black and white archive footage of a magician levitating a woman.  Lucy begins unlocking parts of herself that were formally inaccessible.  

As the film progresses, and Lucy's powers increase, Besson shows a large graphic displaying the percentage points of mental capacity that our heroine now possesses and has access to.  Immediately upon escaping, she opts for having the bags surgically removed.  Knowing that "Lucy" is pure entertainment, the events at the hospital can only be described as absurd.  The surgeon (Paul Chan), whose patient Lucy kills, because he couldn't have saved him anyway, explains to her what CPH4 (a fictitious name) does in small amounts to help spur prenatal growth.  However, now that Lucy just ingested several kilos of the blue crystals, no one knows how she will react to the overdose.  Will she live?  Or, will she die?   Her conversation with her mom over the phone is touching, to a point.  Lucy can remember events that took place when she was only a month or two old.  Like drinking and remembering the taste of her mother's milk.  She bids her mom farewell.

"The purpose of life is to pass on what we have learned."

From here on out, Lucy has an encounter with Jang again, this time the outcome is somewhat in her favor, meets with her roommate, is able to medically scan her body for health issues, write a prescription in Chinese, and give her lifestyle advice.  Lucy can manipulate the color of her hair cells so she can change appearance while at the airport.  She has a harrowing flight from Taipei to Paris, where at one moment she is multitasking, on two laptops at once, and then upon entering the lavatory, realizing that she is smoking hot, literally.  

In Paris, she contacts the police, informing them about the drug trafficking mules, which in turn contact the other countries and arrange for the arrest and export of the other mules to France.  Lucy knows information about people and things that she shouldn't know.  She is becoming quieter as her mind evolves.  By this time, Choi and his henchmen are in place in Paris and ready to attack.  Meeting with police Sgt. Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked) they battle to keep pretty boy Jii (Nicolas Phongpheth), leader of Choi's thugs from getting the CPH4.  After a bloody battle that leaves all of the other three carriers dead and kills half of Jii's men.  Lucy and Del Rio embark on the requisite car chase, with all the obligatory collateral damage, Lucy and Del Rio enter the university where Norman, whose running commentary has been informing us where Lucy is on the evolutionary scale, and the two finally meet.  

Lucy's path now transcends humanity and the audience sees the loss on Johansson's face.  The actor, who started the film as a happy carefree blonde with little care on her mind, is now on a journey that takes her outside of time.  From the galaxy's very beginning to its end, Lucy, by the end of the film, transcends all.  Science Fiction is not a new genre for Scarlett Johansson.  Last year she supplied the voice of Samantha, in the romantic, Sci-Fi film "Her."  The same year she played an alien in "Under the Skin."  Johansson has played Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, in the Marvel franchise since 2010.  Although, not billed as a Sci-Fi film, Christopher Nolen's "The Prestige" certainly has some Sci-Fi elements to it.  In 2005, she starred in Michael Bay's "The Island" alongside Ewan McGregor.  In "Lucy,” she captures the spirit of what Besson is trying to achieve.  Her action scenes are as formidable of any of Besson's male heroes.  She allows her character to transform naturally during the scenes. For example, in a scene in the third act, when she says goodbye to Del Rio, she gives him a slight kiss as a symbol of the loss of her humanity and something to remember it by.  

"What makes us human is blocking us from understanding."

Besson's films have transformed somewhat since the days of "Leon the Professional," and the 1997 Sci-Fi adventure “The Fifth Element," we watched as he featured his wife Milla Jovovich in "The Messenger" and we laughed at last year's "The Family.”  Besson writes more than he has directed, and he's produced more films than he has written.  He wrote and produced “The Transporter” films, which star Jason Statham, and he co-wrote "Colombiana" starring Zoe Saldana of "Star Trek: Into Darkness" fame.  In 2008, he wrote the Liam Neeson film "Taken" and in 2012, he scripted the sequel "Taken 2" and "Lockout" starring Guy Pearce.  Maggie Grace co-starred in all three of those films.  Earlier this year he wrote and produced the Kevin Costner film "Three Days to Kill," a double entendre on Costner's character having only three days to watch his daughter and get an assassination job done.  

Some say that music is sound through time, and the music for “Lucy” is by French composer Eric Serra.  Serra provides compositions for many of Besson’s film and does a marvelous job here as well.  The soundtrack includes music from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the trip-hop of The Crystal Method, the folk grunge of Beck and others, such as Damon Albarn's “Sister Rust” and “God's Whisper” by Raury.  Thierry Arbogast’s does an excellent job of bringing Besson’s cinematic vision to life.

Although Besson professes some profound thoughts, I don't think he is really attempting to say much in that regard.  He doesn't seem to be that kind of a filmmaker.  Although there is no monolith that excites development of hominids on this planet, there is scene between modern but pre-transcendent Lucy and the prehistoric Lucy that is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s "Creation of Adam" fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Besson doesn't spend too much time like Kubrick did driving the point across with his visuals.  Instead, Besson allows the actors and the dialog to carry the story to its logical conclusion, ambiguous as it is.

"Time gives proof to the existence of matter. Time is unifying."

Overall, "Lucy" is a delightful action packed, easy on the eyes, science fiction film that, although is light on the philosophy, presents either a clear case for, or a cautionary tale against transhumanism.  More importantly, "Lucy" expresses our hopes for something more.  The human race is something more in the sense that, this is not all that we are, but a stepping-stone on the road to apotheosis.  “Lucy” makes a great date night film, with plenty of discussion points afterwards.  If you don’t get the chance to capture “Lucy” at the theater, then make sure you catch it on Blu-ray or DVD.

"Lucy" is in theaters July 25, 2014 

Movie Data
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi 
Year:  2014
Staring:  Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked 
Director: Luc Besson
Producer(s): Virginie Silla
Writer: Luc Besson
Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: 7/25/2014

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