Limitless opens into a long tunnel of cars and streets and traffic lights moving as the viewer seems to stand still: it’s a bit like watching logos pass from TV screens, except moving around you as the center stays still. The opening sequence is probably the best description of the movie as a whole: fast-moving and strangely psychedelic—the protagonist literally spends most of the film in a drug induced haze (or rather, a drug induced clarity?).
To put it succinctly, this movie is about one man’s meteoric rise to fame and fortune while using a drug called NZT: NZT somehow improves the interactions of the neurons in the brain, allowing a user to be more aware, remember everything they’ve ever read, make logical connections. The filmmaker even goes as far as to improve color contrast and brightness when a character uses NZT—Limitless is filled with tone choices, bright colors when Edward “Eddie” Morra (Bradley Cooper) pops the pills, neon flashes when he takes too much, and grays and blues when he is off the drug.
Which reminds me. Apparently NZT is dangerous: too much of it and you “lose” time—constantly running forward doing god-knows-what leaving no memory of the incidents behind. Quitting cold turkey induces nausea, weakness, and eventually death, and even recovered addicts have their natural brain function reduced as a result. Much of the movie is a race against time for several characters, the protagonist included, as a certain event makes the supply of NZT quite limited.
The film does a great job of making the main character both fascinating and strangely unlikeable. It may just be me, but when the NZT induced side of Eddie came out I started to miss the pathetic, uninspired Eddie, who is at least honest: there is something sleazy in the easy arrogance of the hopped up Eddie, whose easy charm lands him money and lots of ladies. I kept thinking about a scene in the beginning where Eddie’s girlfriend (Abbie Cornish, Sweat Pea from Suckerpunch!) breaks up with him. Despite his dejection, when Eddie hears that Lindy has landed the job she wanted his face lights up in a warm, genuine smile that made me forgive him for all his weakness. In another scene, when he stumbles upon a murder, Eddie’s first reaction is to cry, not to try to cover his own butt. But the NZT Eddie is simply manipulative—his knowledge seems shallow, and yet people flock around him as if he was someone actually knowledgeable: Carl Van Loon, played by a pitch-perfect Robert De Niro, despicable as he is, is right in that pure genius is simply not enough. Experience counts for something (or did, at some point). To throw in a martial arts metaphor, the genius martial artist might have talent, but the person who has trained for years and years and made progress that way probably has a better grasp of what martial arts is.
As far as the plot goes, there are obvious holes. One issue is how smart already smart people become, and in what ways they become “different” people. Lindy, for example, is convinced that the actions taken while under the influence of NZT are at odds with her own character—Eddie, on the other hand, seems to regard himself as one person whether using or not. I tend to agree with Lindy, especially given the way Bradley Cooper seems to play two completely different characters. Despite the issues, the movie breezes right along—and that in itself is an issue. There isn’t really any thick idea I can sink my teeth into; it seems assumed that everyone would choose to take NZT if they had the chance (Eddie implies as much when he asks the audience in a voice-over, “What would you do?”). Even a little bit of self-doubt would have made this movie a lot more interesting: but at no point in the film, even at the end, does Eddie ever express regret, even for lying or for the deaths that pile around him. It seems that in becoming limitless, Eddie loses his humanity.
This is definitely an interesting and fun film. I just don’t know about the delivery of the idea: like Inception, the idea seems to fall apart on delivery. But hey, not all of us have access to NZT—even filmmakers are simply human.
Lots and lots of movies coming out this month!
The Debt: Sam Worthington (Apple’s favorite), Helen Mirren–split timelines and juicy twists. Looks interesting to me.
Warrior: A MMA version of The Fighter? I am not so sure about this one-I was never a fan of these fighting movies.
Abduction: Taylor Lautner as the lead in an action flick? I’m excited to see this one, even if Apple isn’t, just for the gratuitous half-nakedness that will no doubt ensue.
Shaolin: Jackie Chan! Lots of kungfu! Filmed on location in an actual Shaolin Temple!
Contagion: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, and Jude Law star in this film about a bird flu outbreak.
Moneyball: Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager that used the little money available to craft a winning team.