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Movie News & Reviews
Reel Time
Review ‘Limitless’
Viewers may find suspension of disbelief limited in ‘Limitless’
Article published on Monday, March 21, 2011
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[Image]
Photos by JOHN BAER
DARK FIELDS PRODUCTION LLC
Bradley Cooper and Abbie Cornish star in Relativity Media's “Limitless,” a Dark Fields Production.
[Image]
Photos by JOHN BAER
DARK FIELDS PRODUCTION LLC
Bradley Cooper portrays Eddie Morra in Relativity Media's “Limitless,” a Dark Fields Production.
[Image]
Photos by JOHN BAER
DARK FIELDS PRODUCTION LLC
Robert De Niro stars as Carl Van Loon in Relativity Media's “Limitless,” a Dark Fields Production.
[Image]
Photos by JOHN BAER
DARK FIELDS PRODUCTION LLC
Robert De Niro, left, and Bradley Cooper star in Relativity Media's “Limitless,” a Dark Fields Production.
“Limitless,” the speculative fiction thriller based on the 2001 novel “The Dark Fields” by Alan Glynn, is an adrenalin-stoked, dizzying head rush of a film, with wildly dazzling visuals and feverish pacing.

It’s more than just trippy eye candy, though: At its heart, there is an intricately engineered plot anchored by a transfixing premise. “Limitless” does have its limitations, though: As the film progresses, leaps in logic and implausible developments lead to a less than satisfactory – but all too Hollywood – ending.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) – an aspiring author beleaguered by writer’s block, lethargy and personal hygiene issues – gets a chance to turn his life around. After a chance meeting, an old acquaintance introduces him to NZT, a cutting-edge drug that allows users to tap into their full potential.

In describing the effects of NZT, the film makes the assumption that humans only use a fraction of their brains, a widely perpetuated myth that has not stood up under scientific scrutiny. While taking NZT, the audience is told Eddie can use 100 percent of his brain and become a perfect version of himself.

Fortunately, the film does a better job showing the effects of NZT: Eddie is able to access everything he has ever seen, read or heard. He can learn languages in a day, master the piano, write a brilliant novel in less than a week, conquer Wall Street and accumulate an enormous financial portfolio. As long as he keeps taking the drug, he can process information at the speed of light, accurately predict the likely outcome of any sequence of events and discern multifaceted patterns that remain invisible to others.

His meteoric rise to fiscal kingpin doesn’t go unnoticed, though. His accomplishments catch the eye of mega-mogul Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who invites him to help broker the largest merger in corporate history.

As with any drug, NZT has its problems. As Eddie becomes more addicted to it, he experiences complications, from blackouts to symptoms associated with withdrawal. He also discovers he isn’t the only one using it – and he finds out how far others will go to appropriate his supply.

As required by the script, Cooper delivers two distinct versions of Eddie. One is a meek, retiring, self-effacing artist-type who clings to fading dreams while a succession of disappointments smother his waning creativity. The other is a charismatic, silver-tongued, ruthless manipulator. The character’s opposite ends never quite meet, though, so the audience vacillates between feeling sympathy and feeling repugnance for Eddie.

De Niro gives a solid performance in a role that seems disproportionately edited: The plot could have taken a higher road and substituted a few cerebral skirmishes for the blood-and-bruise brawls that qualify the film as a thriller.

Abbie Cornish, who appears as Eddie’s girlfriend Lindy; and Anna Friel, who plays his ex-wife Melissa, also seem short-changed. Both exit scenes almost as soon as they materialize.

Keeping the camera eye so tightly focused on Cooper’s character, the director limited “Limitless” in scope, giving audiences an exhilarating, suspenseful thriller that could have been equally potent as a requiem for untapped human potential or a condemnation of pharmacological enhancements.

In some films, the story bogs down, loses momentum, falters and disintegrates into an unsatisfying climax. In “Limitless,” it’s the opposite problem: The story moves so quickly it starts to lose itself. What the director sees as clever changes in the direction of the narrative are really gaping flaws: If Eddie, doped up on NZT, can see 20 steps ahead of everyone around him, why doesn’t he perceive the imminent plot twists?

The audience certainly anticipates them. Maybe the concession stand is dusting the popcorn with butter-flavored NZT.

Quick facts
Film: “Limitless”
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel and Johnny Whitworth
Director: Neil Burger
Release date: March 18, 2011
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes
Article published on Monday, March 21, 2011
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