My favorite movies are the ones that I can relate to, for whatever reason. When I saw the trailer for Limitless, I was immediately intrigued by its premise of reaching your untapped potential. We all fall short of our ideal selves, it’s only natural. We’re only human, after all. Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) begins as an Everyman but transforms into Superman.
Cooper is Eddie Morra, a fledgling writer mired in mediocrity. Despite being signed to a book deal he has yet to write one word of his first novel. He resides in a cramped, meager apartment in New York City, a non-descript speck amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. He has an ex wife and an ex-girlfriend, with whom he remains friends. Her name is Lindy, and it’s not clear why they broke up or why such a girl (played by Abbie Cornish) would even be attracted to him in the first place. In the first act of the movie we are introduced to Eddie’s life and the reason why he’d be desperate to change his circumstances. Things change when a chance encounter on the street reunites him with his former brother-in-law, a sketchy Euro-looking guy named Vernon(Johnny Whitworth, 3:10 to Yuma).
Vernonconvinces him to grab a drink and tell him about his book. Eddie looks like crap, and his progress on the book is pathetic. Vernonoffers him a translucent little pill, telling him it’s an early sample of an FDA approved drug called NZT. It’s not on the market yet, butVernontells Eddie that the pill would allow him to use 100% of his brain rather than the very small portion that we use on a daily basis. Eddie is skeptical but pops the pill eventually. Immediately he notices that his powers of perception are heightened. He almost feels like a stranger in his own body. He is “high,” but completely focused and lucid. He is able to disarm his landlord’s bitchy girlfriend by using suddenly learned expertise in human psychology and behavior. He can recall anything he’s ever learned, heard, or read. That’s the magic of NZT. It doesn’t make you know things that you never learned, but it allows you to access anything you’ve ever known, even if only a fleeting memory. Seduced by the possibility of greatness, he visitsVernonand asks for more. He’ll do anything for it, so whenVernonasks him to pick up his dry cleaning and grab some food, he happily obliges. He returns to find thatVernonhas met an untimely demise. After calling 911 he realizes that the NZT may be in the apartment, which had been ransacked byVernon’s killer. He finds the NZT just as the police arrive, and is able to make off with a large quantity.
Over the next couple of weeks Eddie’s appearance and life change dramatically. He gets a haircut and works out maniacally. He finishes his book in 4 days and re-negotiates a lucrative new deal. His editor is salivating. Math becomes useful and he has cultural appetites. He can learn a foreign language in a few days. During this time Eddie borrows 100K from a loan shark, makes some tactical financial investments and increases his money five times over. He’s on the front page of the gossip rags as the new kid on the block shaking up Wall Street. In this capacity he draws the attention of wealthy magnate Carl Van Loon, played here by the legendary Robert DeNiro. Van Loon is intrigued by Eddie but also mistrustful of him. He commissions him to broker a deal, but in the midst of all this Eddie is beginning to suffer from negative side effects from the NZT. He blacks out after periods of intense activity and his health seems to be in jeopardy, in more ways than one. He’s being followed by a mysterious man who obviously knows about the drug or feels threatened by Eddie in some way. After becoming the toast of the town, Eddie must face the possibility of losing everything when he runs out of NZT.
Limitless is my first time seeing Bradley Cooper in a starring role. I think he is sympathetic and believable as a guy who gets in over his head. Director Neil Burger displays a high octane, frenetically stylized cinematography to almost nauseating effect. It was a rush, for sure. Towards the end of the movie things got a little far-fetched for my liking, but the majority of the movie relied on its very provocative premise. DeNiro is always fun to watch, but I can’t say this role was anything noteworthy. Having said that, I still enjoyed seeing him on the screen how could I not? Despite a few missteps, Limitless is a wild ride definitely worth checking out.
This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.