Original review featured on The Doha Film Institute website
Director: Neil Burger
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rating: PG 13
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is suffering from writer’s block. His publisher is getting increasingly nervous because he hasn’t written a word yet, and his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has broken up with him for the loser he’s become. Ironically, a chance encounter with his former brother in law changes Morra’s life forever as, seeing how pitiful he has become, he gives him a pill to make it all better.
The pill in question is NZT: a drug that maximizes the abilities of the brain to its full potential (which always works better on smart people), when one uses up to a maximum of 20% (according to the film). A perfect version of Eddie is recreated where his success grows at the speed of light, allowing him to finish his book, make millions of dollars, and learn new skills and languages in a matter of days. But nothing comes without cost, and the threats rise in parallel with his outstanding achievements. And have we mentioned the side effects?
side from my humble curiosity in the magic of brainpower, this film is intriguingly engaging. It appeases our inquisitiveness in what could happen to us should we use our full mental capacity, and allows us to envision our perfect selves (well, at least this is what I did!). I really admire a film that utilizes all available elements towards the service of the story: it reminded me of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, with its suggestive transitions to what might be happening inside the brain.
Excellent pacing with remarkable music feed the differences between the two parallel worlds created within the film; the ordinary one using dimmer colours and moods, in comparison to what happens post the pill. Through the eyes of Morra, the two worlds shift in seconds, as if one sees clearer all of a sudden (an “Eureka!” effect). After the pill, colours get brighter and his personality and shyness boosted into self-assertiveness almost instantly (think of the difference between dream and reality in ‘Dancer in The Dark’ . From what we see, we can identify with the activity of his brain, portrayed in the beginning with the tidiness of his room after his pill intake, as if he’s organising his cerebral chaos for better efficiency and accessibility.
A beautiful opening scene, with what looks like one shot of very long narrow streets connected as one big hallway, suggest the speed of synaptic links in the brain, offering complimentary suggestive images that are very successful but slightly overused (I got dizzy at times).
Which brings us to Bradley Cooper, and his acting within this film. Playing two roles, one a struggling loser and the other an outstanding personality, is without a doubt an impressive move. He did well in portraying both characters – a bit stereotypical and exaggerated at times, but it works well for this film. De Niro is also on form, and it’s definitely good to see him saying some of the best lines in the film.
As for the facts that make up the storyline, a drug like this surely doesn’t exist. But it is, without a doubt, an allegory to the rapid lifestyle that requires ‘superhuman’ capacities. My only concern would be the statistics and scientific myths that were the base of the film: the 20% of the brain theory. To my gloomy discovery, this is one of the popular myths that has already been busted .
‘Limitless’ is, on the whole, a very pleasant film (I was looking forward to it and was not disappointed). Time flies by unnoticed, as you become drawn into the lightly portrayed major philosophical themes (and I am saying lightly) of the continuous struggle of mankind to become ‘superhuman’. If nothing else, you certainly won’t regret the boost of energy after watching it!