Movie: Limitless (2011)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish & Robert Deniro
Director: Neil Burger
Limitless is a rare film in that it is a high concept film that actually works. The setup: Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer, slob and all around loser. When his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) dumps him it's not mean spirited it's just necessary. Then something comes along and changes his life. That something being a pill called only "NZT" given to him by his brother in-law that allows him to access previously locked portions of his brain. In doesn't exactly make him a genius right away but instead he is then able to easily recall small facts and details he had long forgotten. Learning becomes simpler and even enjoyable, he can easily read people in a way that he never had before. In a matter of days he finishes his novel. Matters are complicated though when he finds his brother in-law dead at his up-scale condo. It seems the pills are important to others as well. Eddie turns the place upside down looking for the secret stash. Luckily he finds what he is after. From this point on Eddie forgets about writing as it becomes clear to him in his altered state that the real money is in stocks & bonds. It seems the pills not only give you intelligence but a clear sense of direction and purpose in life. Or perhaps that a large part of intelligence is simply the confidence to know what you want and go for it. To get in the stock market game Eddie gets a black market loan from a shady character (not too smart). He quickly amasses a fortune in the market and gains the attention of Carl Van Loon (Robert Deniro) a big shot CEO who chooses him to head up a major merger but who seems to have ulterior motives.
Although Bradley Cooper probably won't be getting any Oscar buzz for his performance it's a credit to him and the writers that both the genius Eddie and the loser version still seem like the same guy. Which would probably be true if this scenario was played out in real life. Director Neil Burger uses some fancy camera work to try to show what it would feel like to be a genius. It's all very stylish if not illuminating. Let's face it unless you're a genius then you will never know what it feels like no matter how many camera tricks you use. However, it is all very sleek and entertaining nonetheless.Which is what a movie like this is all about anyway.
Limitless best asset is the way it let's you enjoy Eddie's rise to the top. The way he easily transforms himself from an awkward writer to a hot shot stock broker. How he goes from being intimidated by people more powerful than himself to being the center of attention anywhere he goes. Even how his ex-girlfriend has a sudden change of heart. We all know that it can't last, or can it? The movie starts a lot of different story lines each one representing a challenge to Eddie being able to keep his new life. The biggest being that he has a limited supply of the pills that he needs. Then there is the fact that the pills themselves have unintended side effects (including memory lapses and perhaps murder). Then there is the mobster that is after him who also gets a taste for NZT. And then we have Robert DeNiro as who realizes that Eddie is smarter than him but knows that being smart is not as important as being powerful and wants to use him for his own purposes. All of the stories are weaved together nicely as Eddie must outwit and outsmart his enemies. Along the way some threads aren't as well developed as others and some unanswered questions arise but it doesn't matter much to the eventual outcome or distract much from the enjoyment of the film. I did think that DeNiro could have had a bigger role as the dynamic between Carl and Eddie doesn't really become clear until the final scene. That's a missed opportunity. On the whole though Limitless is sleek, fun thriller that also makes you think a little and that's not bad thing.
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