Philosophy and gun fights don’t really seem like a natural combination, but they’re one of the more successful team-ups in movie history. There’s been loads of existentialist hitmen and crooks all the way up to the lead in Drive; The Matrix was more than happy to ponder the nature of reality in between somersaulting shootouts; and now in Lucy Scarlett Johansson unravels the mysteries of evolution and time itself when she’s not fending off a Tawianese drug cartel. Why do these two tastes go great together? According to some martial arts, it’s just as important to train your mind as it is to train your body … so yeah, let’s go with that.
Lucy (Johansson) is a hard-partying student in Taipei when her new boyfriend handcuffs a mysterious briefcase to her wrist and pushes her into a hotel lobby to deliver it to a man he clearly doesn’t want to meet. And with good reason: when we’re introduced to Mr Jang (Old Boy’s Choi Min-sik), he’s having a minion wash the blood off his hands with bottled water. Meanwhile, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is giving a lecture in Paris on the nature of the human brain and how we only use around 10 per cent of our cerebral capacity, which seems a little off topic. But no! It turns out that Lucy’s meeting with Mr Jang goes better than she expected – in that he doesn’t kill her, but much worse than she might have hoped. He presses her into his service, sewing a packet of a new experiment drug into her stomach and sending her on her way to Europe as part of his distribution network. Only when she doesn’t let her handler get handsy, he knocks her down and kicks her around, the packet splits inside her, and she gets a massive dose of a drug that promptly unlocks an ever-increasing amount of her brain’s potential. Cue various outlandish superpowers and an increasing detachment from humanity.
This is pretty crazy stuff, but director Luc Besson is way more interested in throwing everything he’s interested in at the screen than taking any of this seriously, so it’s way more of a crazy roller-coaster ride than it is a serious attempt to ponder the ramifications of increased brain capacity (and we all know the whole “we only use 10 per cent of our brain” thing is bogus anyway – we only use a percentage of our brain at any one time because different parts of our brain are used for different things). The action is well-handled, the stunts are cool, the nature footage is … well, it’s nature footage in an action movie, and Johansson’s increasingly detached performance is a way more interesting (and believable) take on a super-powered being than the smirking jocks found in most Marvel movies. Best philosophy lecture of the year so far.
Written by Anthony Morris