There's something about (Luc Bresson's) Lucy

 spoiler warning[1]

I watched Luc Bresson's Lucy last night, and whilst it's not the best of his films, it has had me pondering off and on today. Visually, the film is very distinctive, with style that is noticeably Bresson's own; if you've seen the Fifth Element, Leon, or Nikita then you will feel visual echoes as you watch this. The interplay he uses with nature film footage at the start is very cleverly done.

The essence of the story (spoilers hereafter) is a singularity event, but in this case it is not a computer or a machine that is involved. Rather, this is a biological singularity where the eponymous protagonist is caught up in an unfortunate event that results in the unwitting expansion of her mental capacity. The  plot hangs around humans only using 15% of their mental capacity and a drug unlocking Lucy's and expanding it steadily upwards towards 100% capacity, which threatens death as the human body is not built to take this.

Morgan Freeman plays a University Professor who has speculated on the form that such a growth in mental capacity could take plays a kind of mentor to Scarlett Johansen's character as she embarks on a path of revenge and mental development. The story heads away from hard science, bringing in telepathy and increasingly extensive psionic powers, but it works as a fun, but lightweight, thriller.

The bit that has had me wondering is on how this could be used for ideas in a harder SF setting, perhaps with human/machine hybrids. The growth in capability and understanding, and the complications (cranial overheating, the need to provide enough energy to drive the brain) all are nice details to hang characterisation, strengths and vulnerabilities around.

Certainly, it gave me a feeling for what it could be to become one of the Conjoined in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe. Johansen also does a great job at changing how her character behaves as her mental capabilities ramp up. She becomes colder, yet in some ways desperate to find ways to hang onto her humanity, even though she can see the weaknesses and flaws that it has.

Overall, a enjoyable film that I'll probably watch again (although it does leave me wanting to watch Nikita for the first time in years, as it riffs on the same kind of theme of someone being drawn into a totally different world). The area I felt could have worked better was the ending, which
was a bit flat compared to the build that had been going on. It made sense, but it didn't give the level of satisfaction that the rising tension had suggested was coming. I'm not actually certain that the plot could actually do that, though, as transcendence was really the only way out without the protagonist dying from the biological singularity that she was undergoing.

1 April 2014

Update: And having re-watched Nikita the night after I watched Lucy, I had forgotten just how strong that film is. Naturally, it needs to be watched in French with subtitles rather than dubbed, or you lose part of the fun. I'd forgotten how ambiguous the ending is! If you haven't seen it recently, or even haven't seen it, and you like thrillers, then you must watch Nikita.

[1]: To be honest, the spoilers are no worse than the back of the DVD box.