Limitless begins with Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) wearing a smart suit and standing atop a high building about to throw himself off from the penthouse suite. But why? Well, if I say it’s because baddies are around and killng everyone to get to him, that won’t really explain anything further.
Telling the film in flashback, he’s a writer… and a bad one at that, despite somehow having sorted out a book contract. I say ‘somehow’ as several months pass by and he still can’t get a single word written on the page. To make matters worse, his long-term girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has just ended their relationship.
By chance, he meets Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), his ex-brother-in-law, who sells him NZT, a new kind of pill. This isn’t something that’ll get him high, it’s one that will allow him to use 100% of his brain, rather than the 20% on which the rest of us get by. As such, he can supercharge his productivity to the point where he completes his book within 4 days. Trouble is, to buy these costs $800 apiece and they need to be taken daily.
However, it soon proves fruitful when he manages to inadvertently charm his landlord’s young wife after she kicks off at him for not paying the rent, as he spots the corner of a law book in her bag, which he recalls from seeing in a girl’s apartment twelve years ago, but then goes on to recommend a better text along with other ways to make her coursework more intriguing and something that’ll stand out from the rest of the crowd. Naturally, she initially thinks there’s something suspicious going on, but a quick trip to the bedroom later and these tablets are certainly showing their worth.
Other plus points come in the form of being able to play piano in 3 days, he becomes fluent in foreign languages and can pull any woman he chooses. However, there’s also the downsides. The side effects soon begin to take their toll and director Neil Burger uses some clever visual tricks to show off how this happens. Oh, and there’s also the issue of running out of the happy pills just when you need them the most – something which is pin-pointed after he attracts the attention of business mogul Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) by turning $12,000 into $2.3m in ten days. And Van Loon is a ruthless businessman who you really don’t want to disappoint when you’re climbing the ladder.
Throw in some Russian heavies and what first sounded like a fun comedy/drama, when I originally saw the trailer, turns out to often be a very downbeat drama, but also very engaging stuff. Bradley Cooper proves to be more than just a pretty boy actor, putting in a good turn when his character is at his lowest ebb. Robert De Niro is reasonable but at times is just phoning it in. There’s also a cameo from Anna Friel as Melissa, the woman to whom he was once married. Aside from obviously being the link between Eddie and Vernon, I won’t go into detail about where her character fits into all this.
Limitless is a film which I’d highly recommend, and after all, who wouldn’t like to try one of those little pills?
Running time: 105 minutes
Released: July 2011
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Digital Intermediate and Super 35)
Director: Neil Burger
Producers: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh and Scott Kroopf
Screenplay: Leslie Dixon (based on the novel “The Dark Fields” by Alan Glynn)
Music: Paul Leonard-Morgan
Eddie Morra: Bradley Cooper
Carl Van Loon: Robert De Niro
Lindy: Abbie Cornish
Gennady: Andrew Howard
Melissa: Anna Friel
Vernon: Johnny Whitworth
Man in Tan Coat: Tomas Arana
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.