Dir: Neil Burger • WRI: Leslie Dixon • PRO: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Kroopf • DOP: Jo Willems • ED: Tracy Adams Naomi Geraghty • DES: Patrizia von Brandenstein • CAST: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish
Limitless, based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, imagines a kind of mind that’s perfectly designed to thrive in the modern world. A kind of mind that can actually process all of the information we’re presented with in our everyday lives. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) becomes the owner-occupant of this mind when he takes a drug called NZT which enables him to access the untapped potential of his brain. The result is an ability to receive and understand vast amounts of information almost instantaneously. A struggling writer, Eddie on NZT finishes his book in a matter of days and then makes a fortune on the stock market before it’s even published.
The subject material is, in many, ways perfect for cinema. A director like Edgar Wright would have made a fantastic film. The combination of sound and imagery, quick fire editing and graphics, all intelligently applied, would have done a terrific job conveying the ceaseless synaptic fire in Eddie’s brain. Not to mention cranking up the tension on what should have been a terrifying series of blackouts that Eddie experiences as a side effect of the drug. But Neil Burger is not the man for the job. He’s going for a similar effect with a lot of graphics popping up on screen, but he uses these techniques injudiciously (giving us an X-Ray image of Eddie swallowing the first pill just seems silly) so it dilutes the impact they should have had when used at more suitable moments.
Like all high concept sci-fi thrillers the central premise is not without its flaws. (As anyone who has actually taken a class in kung-fu, dance, or music will tell you, knowing what to do and getting your body to do it are two very different things.) The problem for Limitless is that these flaws will occur to you while you’re watching the film and not twenty minutes after you’ve left like they’re supposed to. The film fails as a thriller too simply because having a man come round every now and again to chase the main character and his girlfriend for a bit does not automatically make a film into a thriller. It soon becomes clear that this story line has nowhere to go and the escape plans that their NZT fuelled brains come up with are ridiculous.
Without this key element the movie grinds to a halt half way through and it offers us instead a series of montages on the glamourous lives of America’s super-rich, ignoring the real dramatic potential of the secret behind Eddie’s success. Eddie has NZT, but what dark pacts have these people around him made for their success? In fact one of the best scenes in the movie comes near the end when the Wall Street giant Carl van Loon (Robert De Niro) tells Eddie exactly what it takes to make it in this world. It’s the only time De Niro comes alive in the role and the only time the film touches on something truly dark. It’s a pity then that this too is undermined by the weak ending.
A very disappointing movie.
IFCO website for details)
Limitless is released on 25th March 2011