First Night Flicks: Limitless

Limitless (2011)

Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Robert De Niro
Written by: Leslie Dixon
Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn
Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language

What if a pill could make you instantly smarter? What if this same pill allowed you to recall everything you had ever heard, read or seen, even if it was before you started taking the pill? Would you take you take the pill?

That’s the base question at the heart of Limitless, a movie that’s better than it has any right to be based on premise alone. While not entirely original or surprising, the film does have two things going for it: great camera work/CGI and a good central performance by Bradley Cooper.

When we first meet Cooper’s Eddie Morra, he is a writer in the middle of a creative dry spell. He’s been given an advance on a book for which he’s written not a single word. His apartment reflects his personal appearance, which has his former brother-in-law wondering if he’s living on the street.

It’s this former relation that introduces Eddie to the drug that will ultimately change his life. Within moments of taking his first hit, he’s recalling not only names, but topics of books he only glanced at in college and charming the pants off his landlord’s wife (T.V. Carpio). He finishes his book in four days and then becomes a Wall Street sensation practically over night. He eventually lands a job with one of America’s leading energy moguls (De Niro), brokering a very large, secret deal.

Of course, nothing this good comes without consequences. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling those, though, as they drive the action for the latter half of the film. Not that some of the turns aren’t predictable, but the film is enjoyable to the point of it not really mattering if you can see what’s coming next.

Cooper is effortlessly able to find each note required for the character at the right moment. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I must note that I have been a fan since his days as Will Tippin on Alias (I even own Kitchen Confidential on DVD). However, much like in The Hangover, Cooper has us sympathizing with a character who, at times is downright despicable.

While this is clearly Cooper’s show (he also served as executive producer), director Burger, cinematographer Jo Willems, editors Tracy Adams and Naoim Geraghty and the effects team deserve special recognition for using some extremely interesting camera work, Dutch angles, and jump cuts to convey the effect the drug is having on their central character. The opening credits shot, in particular, is a thing of staggering beauty. I haven’t fallen for a shot this hard since the country road ambush in Children of Men. I wouldn’t dream of trying to describe it for you; it’s worth experiencing for yourself.

Oddly enough, I went into this film expecting nothing special, figuring I could shut my mind off and stare at Bradley Cooper and his unnaturally blue eyes for two hours. I walked away pleasantly surprised by the first film I saw in major release this calendar year that not only didn’t have me lamenting the state of film in the early part of the year, but one I would gladly watch again.

In answer to the main question, I doubt I would take the drug at the heart of the plot of Limitless. I have a hard enough time shutting my mind off with my triple digit IQ. I can’t imagine what would happen with one that reached into four digits.

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  1. Written by Trisha Lynn
    on 2011-03-18 at 20:16

    I can’t imagine what would happen with one that reached into four digits.

    I suspect, my dear, that your brain would explode.

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