Theatrical Review: LIMITLESS
We as humans don't utilize our full potential. This is a fact. After all, we do only use 10-20% of our brain power and science won't be able to give us the capability to go beyond that (not in our lifetime, at least). Well, what if there was a magic pill that could unlock that potential? What if you were a disheveled writer who vaguely resembled Bradley Cooper, but when taking this pill you become the badass that is the Bradley Cooper that you've admired (yeah, even if you're a straight dude) on screen. LIMITLESS answers those questions, and the answers are full of pure adrenaline-pumping, synaptic brain-firing fun! From the director of THE LUCKY ONES and THE ILLUSIONIST, Neil Burger has helmed a film that could very well end up being one more of the pleasantly surprising films of 2011.
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a writer living in New York City. Under contract to complete a book that he can't seem to get started, he lives out his days in a dim, repetitive routine that doesn't do much to stimulate the creative process. Lacking ambition and living in squalor, his girlfriend dumps him and he goes on about his days. On the streets one day, he comes across Vernon, his former brother-in-law, and they have a drink to catch up. Vernon used to be a drug dealer who now works for a pharmaceutical firm, and upon hearing all of Eddie's problems he has a solution: NZT. NZT is an experimental drug that Eddie is told has been FDA approved and will allow him to gain the use of 100% of his mind.
Skeptical, Eddie ignores the advice, until he's berated by his landlord's wife and decides to take the pill to help cope. Almost instantly he's able to discern that his landlord's wife is a law school student, and he helps her research a paper to help her with school. Suddenly, everything in Eddie's life is brighter and nothing seems impossible anymore. He begins to dabble in the stock market and gains the attention of a big business mogul named Carl Van Loom (Robert De Niro). Mr. Van Loom retains Eddie's services and he gets him to help with the biggest corporate merger in U.S. history. As with anything, things are too good to be true and eventually he begins to feel sick and he's finds he's being followed by strange people all the time.
Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are absolutely fantastic playing off of each other. It's especially refreshing to see Robert De Niro in something that doesn't make the viewer feel embarrassed for what he's watching on screen. Bradley Cooper is what he is, and what he is, is an absolutely charming leading man who exhibits the kind of charisma and nice guy charm that isn't as prevalent as it should be in today's movies. Abbie Cornish isn't given very much screen time, but she makes the best of the time she's given and doesn't drag the film down in any way. If you enjoyed her in this, you can see her later this year in SUCKER PUNCH.
When the film really excels is when Eddie is on NZT. When Eddie is on the drug he can access random memories that have been locked away since childhood, and with those he can do things like fight several men at once because he once watched Bruce Lee movies as a kid, or learn a language by simply listening to some of it. At times, the plot veers off into areas of ridiculous proportions and it's almost baffling how the characters get out of some situations, but the film establishes its rules very early on, and it never veers away from that. The possibilities are in fact limitless, and Eddie Morra has what equates to a 4 digit IQ, so to question anything that happens in the film is to say that you could figure out a smarter way to either avoid that circumstance or solve your problem entirely. Most of the problems are in the third act where the film does seem to get a little long, but the first two acts are good enough to forgive the length.
The fact that the script is written very tightly with an understanding of its own rules is the biggest strength of the film and most viewers will walk away with very few questions. LIMITLESS is the first pleasant surprise of 2011, the trailers and TV spots don't do it justice. It's much smarter that it appears on the surface and is immensely enjoyable.