“Why is it that the moment your life exceeds your wildest dreams, the knife appears in your back?”
Just how much of our brains do we actually use? In Limitless, we as humans are only capable of accessing 20% of it, and for writer Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) it may be less. He is essentially at rock bottom with a severe case of writer’s block, low motivation, and the victim of a recent dumping by Lindy (Abbie Cornish), his now ex-girlfriend. Through a random occurrence on the streets of the Big Apple, he reunites with an old acquaintance, a shady character who gives Eddie a new not-yet-administered-by-the-FDA drug called NZT. This pill is a wonder, hitting the bloodstream and unlocking every doormat crevice in the mind.
Eddie is immediately transformed and hooked on the effects after an initial usage. A loser before, he now is a suave, confident, and erudite individual. Forget writing, the possibilities are truly limitless for the man. But with bigger opportunities come bigger people, and with bigger people come bigger problems. Mr. Mora has no idea as to the depths of this rabbit hole.
Limitless brings an original and really intriguing premise to the table. It is not a flawless piece of science fiction, but it does more right than wrong. There is sort of a noteworthy message here, in that having the power to do meaningful things for yourself and others doesn’t exactly mean you will. The narrative of Eddie becoming a new man through artificial means is loaded with potential different avenues that it could have went down, but actually devolves into something that is just OK. Furthermore, there are some events within the narrative that are overly coincidental and/or hard to see occur in the way they do. As a result, so much that goes down evokes the feeling of only happening because there would be no movie without it occurring. Make sense?
While the general plot may be disappointing from a potential standpoint, what isn’t disappointing in Limitless is the cinematography. Without a doubt, it ends up being the greatest thing about the film. If I could best describe the style in two words, I would say vivid and frenzied. Director Neil Burger makes use of various camera techniques to really embody what the main character is experiencing while under the effects of NZT.
Going one step further, the movie is clear in its visual palette as well. In places, it carries a feel of a comic book coming to life on screen. NZT-infused moments are defined by precise, warm, and a razor sharp popping color. Alternatively, “normal” moments are evidenced by extremely cool/blue-gray color tones and hues. Not only does it look visually pleasing, but it paints an obvious distinction that almost gives the audience a feel as to how the drug would be.
The film does have ready and able supporting stars, but Limitless is Bradley Cooper’s to own. Aside from The Midnight Meat Train when he was still sort of an unknown thespian, this is his first starring role post-Hangover fame. And, he really brings all of his skills on display in this one. Whether selling shock and fear, or confidence and charisma, he switches quite effortlessly through the gamut of emotions. Through the course of the movie, I went from cheering for the guy to badly wanting to see his comeuppance.
He also is tasked with giving narration to the film. Sometimes this is an unnecessary addition, but here it adds more depth and understanding to not just the drug but of his character Eddie without feeling too expository. From the moment he appears on screen, Cooper has a sort of magnetism (audibly and physically) that seizes your attention and doesn’t let go, in spite of the sometimes tired plot.
Also of note are co-stars Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro. Both of their characters are not anything amazing, but they make do with what they have. Cornish’s chemistry with Cooper is very believable, and she is definitely the most grounded and realistic character in the entire movie. De Niro plays of the big figureheads on Wall Street, and he does good as the cold and calculating businessman. His square-offs with Cooper are some of the better scenes. Not one of his best roles simply because it lacks in what he is presented with, but still enjoyable. Everyone else is pretty standard, either playing yes-man tycoons or thug & gangster types, though there is one Russian character that injects some humor and danger into the movie.
Thanks to the performance of Bradley Cooper and overall directorial wizardry, Limitless is a fun enough watch, even if the compelling premise does fall short of its promise. The entire brain may not be unlocked when watching, but it will keep it engaged.
Photo credits go to impawards.com, thebuzzmedia.com, blu-ray.com, & gonemovies.com.
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