LimitlessSynopsis: What ifia pill could make you rich andipowerful?

Bradley Cooper (The A-Team) and two-time Academy-Award winner Robert De Niro star in this provocative thriller. When a burnt-out writer (Cooper) discovers a top-secret pill that unlocks 100% of his brain’s capacity, he acquires mind-bending talents that bring him big money, beautiful women and limitless success, but at a dangerous price.


Limitless 7.25

eyelights: the intriguing premise. the stylish direction.
eyesores: the unimaginative plot direction. Bradley Cooper.

I hesitated at least once before picking up ‘Limitless’. I had heard about it: it’s about a man who is able to tap into his infinite potential, becoming in essence super-human. My key concern: Bradley Cooper, whom I had yet to see in a movie, but whose pretty boy image inspired no confidence whatsoever.

Still, I heard some positive comments from a friend whose opinion I respect, so when I got the chance to pick it up (for what amounts to peanuts), I decided to give it a chance. After seeing ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ together, and given my disappointment with its casting, he told me that ‘Limitless’ was a good example of Cooper’s acting ability.

So I ramped it up, and watched it within days.

My initial impression was total ecstasy. While Cooper seemed slightly out of place, I love the story of this unfocused, uninspired wannabe writer whose mind expands after he takes an experimental drug, turning him into a genius overnight – but for a limited time only.

The notion of being able to make use of one’s intellect to the fullest degree, to be able to access detail that was lodged in one’s memory over the years but was long “forgotten”, to be able to understand complexities without effort, to be more creative, focused and driven than ever before, is intoxicating.

But it all depends on how one decides to use this potential. And this is where ‘Limitless’ stumbles.

Although it seems to follow the premise of the original novel, ‘The Dark Field’, somewhat closely, and it should be commended for this, I wish that the story didn’t devolve into a crime thriller as it does; the possibilities of having a god-like intellect are endless, and it bemuses me that it had to go into an all-too-familiar suspense mode.

Adding to my disappointment was that, after maximizing his intellectual potential, Eddie (Cooper) decides that the best way to exploit it is to play the stock market and become rich. Uh… okay, sure, depending on one’s value system, I suppose. But then he also starts doing things that are incredibly dumb for a purportedly really smart guy.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

For instance…

  • He decides to borrow 100K from the Russian mafia and invest it in the stock market. Although he could likely find money in other ways, he decides that time is short and this is the fastest way to go about it. Le sigh.
  • He gives his Mafia connection some of the drug to get him off his back. However, knowing that this ruthless criminal would become extremely intelligent as well as he sounds like a moronic idea to even a schlep like me. Despite his new-found intellect, Eddie doesn’t seem to realize how dangerous that is.
  • He takes too long to try to have the drugs reproduced, so that he can have an unlimited supply of them. To me, that would have been the first order of the day: discover its secrets and reproduce them. And intelligent as I would be, I would improve on the formula. Here, Eddie waits endlessly to do this.
  • To hide his drugs, Eddie has a pouch sewn into all his custom-designed jackets. Except that he keeps all his stash in one place, so that if anything happens to one of them, it happens to all of it. That is totally mental – even a child would know better than to put all its eggs in one basket.
  • To make matters worse, it doesn’t even occur to him to check his jacket dutifully anytime that he has parted with it – especially when he’s handed it over to someone else. Seems to me that if your whole success depended on these drugs, then you’d want to ensure that they’re safe. Not Eddie.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

Now, I can understand that smarts doesn’t instantly come with a side-dish of wisdom, but basic concepts like personal safety and covering one’s bases seem like basic properties of anyone remotely alert. So, in my mind, there’s no way that Eddie would have gone down the route he did with a 100% intellectual capacity.

Also, the film would have been much more satisfying if it delved into more realistic problems that come with such enhanced intellect. For example:

  • Would one feel superior to other human beings and start to look down upon them?
  • Would people start to get suspicious of his sudden ability and success?
  • Would one feel lonely, isolated, bored by others? Would one feel the need to share this power with one other person in order to feel connected with a “bird of a feather”?
  • Would one get tired of one’s ability? Would one cease to feel challenged?
  • What about the side-effects? Wouldn’t they be a concern to a deeply intelligent being? Here they are given a little screen time, but Eddie doesn’t really take them seriously; “Oh, well” seems to be his attitude.

And that’s not even delving into the moral responsibilities of having such an intellect – something that would only happen with a more noble character than Eddie. In ‘Limitless’, instead we are given chases, violence, and contrived tension. It’s as if the filmmakers decided that the audience couldn’t deal with anything but a thrill ride – one that ridiculously leads to the edge.

Heck, even ‘The Lawnmower Man’ did better than this – and, let’s face it, it’s hardly what one might call a masterpiece.

In the acting department, there’s not much of note, good or bad. Bradley Cooper was okay, really, but not outstanding; he fits snuggly somewhere between Ryan Reynolds and Christian Bale – not nearly as putrid as Reynolds, but not as credible as Bale . Most of the time, I kept imagining Bale in the part, thinking how much better it would have been with him in it.

…at least, the more dramatic parts – the ones that required acting chops.

Speaking of which, I was surprised to find Robert De Niro playing against Cooper again. What’s the attraction? Cooper is an up and comer, sure, but he’s no great actor, one that someone of De Niro’s calibre would feel challenged by. I mean, let’s be real: he never made another movie with Ray Liotta, right? So why Bradley Cooper?

Anyway, De Niro was pretty good here, but it felt as though he was sleeping a little bit, coasting on his abilities slightly. It may be due to the material, or it may be due to the company he kept in this film, but he wasn’t in top form – which, it must be said, is nonetheless better than many other actors at their best. (Ahem. I won’t start on Cooper again.)

All this to say that ‘Limitless’ is a film that reaches for the sky but remains grounded due to relatively pedestrian performances from the writers and the cast. It offers up a protagonist whose mind is expanding, but it doesn’t even allow the audience to expand its expectations, giving it reheated twists and plot gaps. And, in limiting its scope the way that it does, ‘Limitless’ ends up being a daydreamer’s wet dream gone dry.

Date of viewing: March 11, 2013

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s