Friday, March 18, 2011

Limetless Review

Imagine that you have the ability to become a superhuman by taking a pill. The pill would allow you to maximize your human potential and lead you to power, sex and wealth. Now before you say yes, let's say this pill has side effects. Eventual addiction. Sickness. Death. Would you still take the pill? That is the plot to Limitless, a film directed by Neil Burger based on the novel The Dark Fields, by Alan Glynn.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a writer with an extreme case of writer's block. His personal and financial life is falling apart. His girlfriend Lindy, played by the lovely Abbie Cornish, is leaving him. One day, he meets his his ex-brother in law on the street. He offers Eddie, a drug called NZT that will cause Eddie to use 100% of his brain. After taking the drug, Eddie finds he can write his novel. He starts to remember everything he has ever experienced. It also enhances his intellect. In essence, Eddie becomes a superhuman.

In addition to being able to write his novel, Eddie learns he can use his talents to make money. He begins to play the stock market and starts to make millions. This brings him to the attention of Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), a wealthy financier who wants to hire Eddie. It also draws attention to others who want Eddie's secret. Oh and let's not forgot Eddie's Russian loan shark who is a little unhappy about Eddie forgetting to pay him back.

Neil Burger has a great flair for the visual depiction of intelligence. Scenes of numbers and equations form on the ceiling above Eddie as he ponders how to play the stock market. Letters fall from the sky as Eddie writes his novel. As Eddie advances, Burger uses first person shots to propel the viewer down the street as if you are being accelerated by the drug. Of course all, that fancy camera work comes at a price. It will make you dizzy. Thank goodness it wasn't filmed in 3D. But all these camera tricks work on making the idea of super-intelligence interesting. And Burger does know how to stage an action sequence. One quibble. There's no need for some of the rock and roll songs pounding you down. The visuals and a more subtle score would work better.

Leslie Dixon's script does have its contrivances. For example, Eddie's ex-brother in law is murdered. Eddie calls the police but has time to search his apartment. Really? It takes the cops that long to respond to a murder scene? And there is nothing in the screenplay to indicate that we should be rooting for Eddie or loathing him. Eddie is just kind of cold. Maybe that's the point. But the film does ask some interesting questions. How far would anyone go for a superior advantage in life even if it is dangerous? Bigger questions on what is important in a person's life are left out of the movie. That's a shame because one leaves the theater wondering about the ending. And please don't bring "No Country for Old Men's" (2008) ending to this discussion. The ideas in that film were telegraphed before its nebulous ending.

As far as the performances, Bradley Cooper is fine as Eddie. He's both desperate and slick. Abbie Cornish is just radiant. Robert De Niro is good as the ruthless Van Loon but he needs more sophistication as a businessman and less New York Mafioso.

I have to recommend Limitless. For its flaws, I appreciate its desire to stimulate the moviegoers intellect. That's something that's missing in today's films. Limitless is a thought provoking science fiction thriller. The grade is A-.

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