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A movie directed by Neil Burger

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Some Movies Are Over-Medicated

  • Mar 19, 2011
Star Rating:

Oscar Wilde is one of the most quotable writers I know of, and I’m pleased that reviewing Limitless has given me the opportunity to mention one of his best witticisms: I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying. Screenwriter Leslie Dixon and director Neil Burger should have had that quote engraved on a plaque and hung over their office doors, for it would give passersby an idea of what to expect when the film was finished. Its thoroughly engaging premise suggests that it’s an intelligent and thought-provoking thriller aiming to tell us something; what that something is isn’t exactly clear to me, and that’s the problem. Could it be that, in today’s medication-saturated culture, success depends on finding the right drug? I sincerely hope not. It would be far more compelling – not to mention ethical – to tell us to avoid drug use altogether.
The film is narrated by New York resident Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), who goes from a struggling writer to a rich and powerful financial wiz with the help of an experimental pill nicknamed NZT. It was supplied to him by, of all people, his former brother-in-law, a former drug dealer who claims to be in pharmaceuticals; NZT, he explains, allows the user to access 100% of his or her brainpower, a full 90% more than what we currently use. It proves highly effective on Eddie; he becomes acutely aware of his surroundings and gains the ability to think forty to fifty steps ahead of every situation. In this heightened state of awareness, he writes an entire novel in four days, learns to play the piano in three days, and rapidly becomes fluent in a number of languages. Most importantly, he enters the investment world and makes bundles, having gained an appreciation for math. He’s not, in the classic sense, high – it’s just that he sees the world in clear, logical patterns.

His power of financial observation catches the attention of a powerful investment broker named Carl van Loon (Robert De Niro). Although weary of his methods, Eddie’s knowhow could potentially prove invaluable for a major business merger that’s currently in development. But issues arise when Eddie starts upping his dosage of NZT; in one of many scenes of sheer visual creativity, we see him in various locations and with various people over the course of eighteen hours, and in each instance, he’s unaware of how he ended up there. When the effects start to wear off, he realizes he has severe memory gaps. The news reports the murder of a woman in a hotel room – the same woman he was with the night before. Before long, his stash dwindles, and he’s forced to stop taking the pills. There are horrendous side effects, as evidenced by his ex-wife (Anna Friel), who was also on NZT.
Other problems arise. He’s followed everywhere by a mysterious man in a tan coat (Tomas Arana). He owes money to a Russian gangster, who supplied him with a loan to invest in the stock market; he becomes even more of a threat when he takes an NZT tablet and becomes addicted. The man in the tan coat targets Eddie’s girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), who can escape her situation only by popping a pill and thinking through it. And why has the man on the other end of the business merger suddenly fallen gravely ill?

This would be adequate material for an action thriller, which generally doesn’t require the audience to think too hard about it. But Limitless is clearly trying to be something more. It’s theme of modern-day drug dependence in professional and personal life has resonance, and if you don’t believe me, turn on the TV and wait for a commercial break; you’re sure to see at least three ads for a prescription medication. The problem is, the film doesn’t examine this in a way that’s easily understood. I analyzed the characters, I studied the visuals, and I pondered the implications, but I couldn’t quite figure out what the point was. I’m not sure a point was being made at all, given the highly implausible nature of how Eddie’s situation unfolds. If this film was intended to be a commentary, perhaps it shouldn’t have been so hard to understand.
And yet, the underlying premise remains very interesting, and there are certain aspects of the film that kept me going. I appreciated, for example, the balance between Eddie’s drug-induced extremes, from the bursts of intellectual prowess to his deteriorating mental stability; it suggests that, in some instances, the price of being a better you is too high. Or does it suggest that? I have a feeling the final scene of Limitless was intended to reverse what we thought we knew about drug dependency – and not in a way that was flattering or even necessary. I ultimately wasn’t sure what to believe about this movie, except that it was visually splendid and morally and thematically ambiguous. It can’t possibly be a good sign when a film is too clever to know the very message it’s trying to send. Oh, Oscar – sometimes, you said it best.


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March 19, 2011
sounds like a film with a lot of intended philosophical overtones but didn't quite get it right. Not sure, I am not a fan of Cooper, but De Niro does give me hope for this one. I may see this throughout the week, since I already have my review intro ready from what I've seen in the trailers. Thanks for the great reviews! Coffee and your reviews--woke me up.
March 19, 2011
It's nice to know someone wakes up wanting to read my reviews. Anyway, this is by no means an awful movie; it's just that it didn't quite live up to its potential. Watching it, there was the overwhelming sense that something was missing. I'm still not quite sure what that something was.
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review by . September 19, 2011
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review by . July 28, 2011
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review by . August 17, 2011
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review by . May 02, 2011
So here I am, sick, writing my review of Limitless, which was a decent but unspectacular movie starring the ever-so-charismatic Bradley Cooper. From the minute I saw the trailer for this I wanted to see it and now that I have, I wasn't disappointed. Limitless doesn't really take full advantage of its spectacular premise, but it provides some decent thrills and visual panache, although like the consensus says, the script left much to be desired. This, along with movies like Rango and The …
review by . March 13, 2011
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'Limitless' directed by Neal Burger and written by Leslie Dixon is based on the novel   The Dark Fields a riveting, high-concept thriller written  by (Andrew Dunn).          Both the film and the book asks the question: What would you do if you could take a pill that makes you smarter - as in...beyond genius, smarter?      Well for Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) an unsuccessful writer with major writer's block, …
review by . July 18, 2011
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Oddly limited
LIMITLESS   Written by Leslie Dixon   Directed by Neil Burger   Starring Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro       Carl van Loon: So, Eddie Morra, what’s your secret?   Eddie Morra: Medication.       Drugs are bad. While that is generally the rule, how can anything that allows you to access the full potential of your brain actually be bad for you? Well, it can if the mere idea of it inspires …
review by . May 06, 2011
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15 - 105mins - Mystery/Thriller - 23rd March 2011 Soon to be released on the 23rd of March, Limitless focuses around the life of writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) a man who is heading nowhere fast in life; he is most definitely in the slow lane. The book he's currently working on has reached healthy zero words after an extended spell of writers block and his love life is trending down a similar road. Cue a chance encounter with an old acquaintance and the discovery of a way to escape …
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Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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