A fantastical thriller, Limitless makes you want to yell “I’ll have what he’s on!” In theatres everywhere March 18th, this sleek sci-fi starring Bradley Cooper plays like a morality tale on speed.
Based on a novel by Alan Glynn, Limitless explores the normally untapped heights of human potential. The movie starts with main character Eddie Morra (Cooper) standing on a ledge. He’s about to jump, and to explain how he got to this point in his life he takes the audience back to the beginning of all his trouble.
Eddie Morra is a discouraged writer. Suffering from chronic writer’s block, his unkempt life (and person) has driven away his girlfriend and he is facing complete failure. After an accidental run-in with his ex-brother-in-law Vernon, Eddie finds himself having a drink and contemplating the newest designer drug. Vernon is a drug dealer, and he offers Eddie a little clear pill that he insists is government-approved and legal. It supposedly clears the head, and optimizes your performance by allowing you to access the untapped 80 percent of your brain.
Not one to take drugs, Eddie is skeptical. But he’s at a low point in his life, and if anything he could use a little clarity. So he takes the little pill, and his life changes forever. Not only is he suddenly on an adrenaline rush, but he sees and hears and understands everything. He’s a step ahead of everyone, and he can access every little bit and piece of all the information he’s ever heard or read about during his life. This sudden access and mental sorting means he basically knows everything, and what he doesn’t know he can learn in minutes, like a new language or the ins and outs of Wall Street stock trading. He suddenly can write, and better than he has ever written before.
But the morning after is a bitch. Eddie wakes up the next day, and is not only back to normal, he’s worse for having experienced the rush of brilliance and super-human intelligence. So he goes to see Vernon, only to discover he’s been murdered. Someone has ransacked Vernon’s apartment, and there’s only one thing they could have been looking for. Eddie uses an old piece of information he knows about Vernon and finds his stash of the miracle drug, catapulting him into a drug addiction that turns his life upside down. But for all the brilliance and ability, the drug has some terrible side effects. After a few days, Eddie realizes the price for perfection is very high.
The film starts with a voice-over narration by Eddie’s character. This narration brings audiences into the story of the film much like a novel would bring readers in. It sets a mood for the movie that is kind of like an intimate communication between the main character and the audience. It makes it easy to empathize with the Eddie character, as flawed as he is.
Robert De Niro gives a one-note performance as the villain; a wealthy, ruthless Wall Street tycoon who wants to capitalize on Eddie’s brilliance. Cooper earns his stripes in this film. We‘ve seen him play the funnyman and the charmer, but in Limitless he proves he has leading-man chops. He takes Eddie and makes him fun and down-to-earth. Abbie Cornish does a competent job as Eddie’s love interest, but her performance doesn’t stand out.
Limitless has a great, hip soundtrack. Jaunty and edgy songs compliment the surreal/science fiction nature of the story. The filming is sleek enough but the movie is set in New York City so there’s not a whole lot new going on as far as sets and scenery. That being said, director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) captured some intriguing visual effects. There are some cool shots and fun camera work, particularly in the scenes where Eddie is suffering from some of the drug’s side effects, like when everything seems sped up and when he’s jumping through time.
This movie is a thrill-ride, and the audience experiences the rush and whirl of a drug-induced manic journey along with Eddie. We get a taste of what it would be like to have everything, but know it can’t last. I’m not sure if this is a cautionary tale for or against mind-altering drugs, but it’s definitely entertaining.
Be sure to check out our interview with director Neil Burger.
Limitless was released in theatres on March 18, 2011