At one point in Limitless a character mentions, “If I don’t keep moving forward, it felt like I might explode”. It seems the whole movie feels the exact same way. And when I left the theater, so did I. Like a good thriller Limitless keeps moving forward and it doesn’t stop for one second to look back. If you missed something you've missed it. So, it is a good thing the movie captures your attention effectively as it does while your eyes and mind indulge in one of the most pulpy thrillers in a long time.
It has been a while since I enjoyed a movie the way I enjoyed Limitless. It is one of those thrillers, that regardless of how formulaic it remains, it holds you back against the seat and takes you for one intense ride. This is popcorn filmmaking at its best.
If you didn’t see the trailers, Limitless is about a drug that unlocks the possibilities of the human mind. So when you take this drug, your brain operates at levels so fast that you could be trading stocks like a pro, writing a best selling novel, and having phone sex with your girlfriend at the same time. Your brain is able to recall everything it has ever seen, heard, or known and connect the dots in ways you never thought possible. Obviously there are lots of very important and very dangerous people after this drug. But a whole stash of it ends up in the hands of Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper). Morra is a browbeaten writer who just got dumped by his girlfriend, is about to loose his apartment, and finds himself in such a low point in life that when he is handed an odd looking pill by a guy he doesn’t quite trust he shrugs off and decides to take it. After all, how worse could his life get? Turns out that with that one pill, he is able to turn his whole life around; somehow finds the time to finish his novel, get through the bills, clean his apartment, and bang his landlady, and woo his ex-girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) back. After a week of being on this super drug he becomes the new superstar of Wall Street after he turns a couple hundred dollars, into two million in three days. Eddie Morra becomes the man everyone wants to be.
It is not long before he attracts the attention of some very powerful and very dangerous folks. First there is Kevin Doyle (Darren Goldstein), a street gangster and loan shark whom Eddie borrowed the initial 100 grand from. Doyle knows Eddie and he knows Eddie wouldn’t have been able to do what he did alone; he finds out and he want in. There is also Carl Van Loon (Robert DeNiro), a Wall Street tycoon who is naturally smart and sees Eddie as a good investment.There is also a strange man that seems to follow Eddie everywhere he goes. Adding to Eddie’s problems is the fact that if he ever stops taking the drug he dies. Sooner or later he is going to run out. So kids, there is a lesson to be learned here; under no circumstances should you take odd-looking pills from strangers, or ex in-laws. Ever.
It will make you see floating letters all around you.
The acting is a little bit above what it a thriller like this needs, which is pleasant. Cooper does a fine job depicting the same character in several states of being both physically and mentally. He has to play both: the successful entrepreneur with a cocky ass and the downtrodden writer that thinks more than what he should. It is not an award winning performance but it is nice enough. Meanwhile De Niro is in the best role he’s had in a long, long time (perhaps since Analyze This/That). He is not being used to his full potential but he does embody the role of a Wall Street veteran quite well. You know the type of person who is nice, not because it is the good thing to do but because it is the greedy thing to do? Well, that kind of person.
Like a good thriller the plot evolves to a point that the hero gets pinned against the wall and you see very little escape and you are on the edge of your seat… but for the most part the film is pretty straightforward and somewhat formulaic, although it is told in a rather elegant and flashy manner for something of its kind. Like being in the middle of Time Square this movie is overloaded with color and movement. This makes it seem that you like Eddie Morra are absorbing information at the speed of light. It is a fascinating use of that feeling you get when you watch a thriller. Finally, I’d like to give a mention to the director, Neil Burger. This is his fourth movie; his second, The Illusionist, was a very elegant but unsung masterpiece. I am certainly looking forward to his next film. Limitless is very similar to The Illusionist in many ways; it is not as good a movie but it is worth it to check out regardless.