Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Release Date: March 18th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Neil Burger Actors: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth, T.V. Carpio
ost viewers will go into “Limitless” with low expectations, thanks to a mediocre trailer and a cast of second-tier regulars. This works to a great advantage, since the film actually possesses a unique plot, fascinating concepts, and genuine thrills. There’s also a lot of humor mixed into the graveness, lightening the mood for the more shocking material and creating a sense of fun. It’s also difficult to take anything Bradley Cooper does too seriously.
Edward Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a failing writer, struggling to type the first sentence of the book he’s already taken an advance to pen, frequently turning to booze for inspiration. When he happens upon the brother of his ex-wife, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), a well-dressed drug dealer convinced that he’s a successful businessman, Eddie is given a clear pill known as NZT that promises to expand the usage of the brain from the standard 20% to a whopping 100%. Upon downing the drug, Eddie is suddenly shot with an unprecedented surge of motivation; he’s capable of spouting a sparkling cocktail of useless information (which makes him irresistible to the ladies), recalling everything he’s ever seen or heard in a remarkably organized manner, learning languages just by listening to people speak, and finishing his novel in a few days.
He returns to Vernon for more of the miracle drug and is able to secure a large bag. It’s a limited supply, but enough to boost his mind into transforming $12,000 into $2 million by playing the stock market. Despite terrifying side effects, which he is eventually forced to control, Eddie is all set to become a very powerful man – if only he can keep a murder charge off the record thanks to gaps in memory, prevent a shady loan shark from killing him, and not run out of NZT while trying to impress the Gordon Gekko of investment bankers, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro).
Two things make “Limitless” a lot more entertaining than typical, mindless thrillers: firstly, Eddie’s “super powers” aren’t actually superhuman, allowing the premise to be much more believable. The fact that it’s caused by a drug also dissuades inquiry because it’s generally accepted that drugs do crazy things. It’s a purely science-fiction idea without the otherworldly disposition of aliens or time travel. His moments of superior intelligence are demonstrated by green-screen work, CGI, a hazy gray world transforming into a vivid golden one, and hyperactive camera tricks. Secondly, our superhero frequently loses his special abilities and must cope in the real world, dealing with adversaries that also don’t possess an advanced weapon or Kryptonite – along with the accompanying downers of addiction and crashing. He’s also simply not a clean cut protagonist.
A necessary narration presides over “Limitless,” smartly filling in what can’t be described by actions. The rest is a combination of adventure, suspense, and creatively hilarious violence. The unexpected conclusion might leave you with questions and concerns, but also a certain undeniable degree of satisfaction. If the bewildering nature of the outcome is too much to wrap your head around, just remember that it’s only a Bradley Cooper movie.
– Mike Massie