Limitless is an original story with huge potential. It almost reaches that place, but doesn't quite cross the threshold to enter into the amazing zone. Bradley Cooper does a fine job in his role and the whole idea of being the best versions of ourselves is something people are constantly striving for.
This escapist thriller does more than just evoke our senses, it gets us thinking about what we would do if we had that much power and intelligence.
Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Morra, a struggling writer who has hit rock bottom - he's suffering from writer block, his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has dumped him, and he is very quickly running out of money. When he meets his ex-brother-in-law on the streets of NYC, his life changes for the better - or does it? He is given a drug called NZT that will help him write his book and stay focused. He resists taking the pill at first, but then thinks 'what the heck?'
NZT does more than he ever dreamed, he becomes the best version of himself, using 100% of his brain when human's normally have the capacity to only use about 20% of their brain. But what happens when people start to find out what is making you such a winner? You become the target of some very dangerous and lethal people. Eddie is thrown into a world of criminals and excessive greed, not to mention the troubles he faces when he runs out of the coveted super drug.
The thriller is meant to entertain and have fun with the idea of having limitless access to the brain -- and it succeeds in doing that. There are some greater underlying issues about drug use that are never fully explored. When Eddie doesn't have the drug for a couple days, he goes through serious withdrawal and exhibits the same symptoms as one without heroine or cocaine would experience. It's an interesting exploration on how far people would go to get what they want.
Although there are some of those underlying factors, the film doesn't take itself too seriously in general and Bradley Cooper does a great job of adding in tiny elements of humor throughout to keep the movie light and interesting. Cooper's first performance in a leading role comes off with extreme success. He does a great job playing a man who goes from having nothing and living in squalor to becoming a man who is practically invincible.
Director Neil Burger tries to completely encapsulate the visuals associated with taking this kind of drug. When Eddie is writing his book, we see words and numbers flying around the screen. When he takes the pill, audience sees two or three versions of Eddie. The thought behind these visual elements is there and I can understand what Burger was trying to do, but it just comes across as distracting and disjointed.
Most of the film is fun and superficial with images of Eddie getting whatever he wants, including buying $8 million apartments and beach houses with luxury accommodations. You never feel like you need to take the film too seriously, but then about 3/4 of the way through, there starts to be a little too much action-packed gory violence that doesn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the movie. There is one scene in particular where Eddie drinks another man's blood just to get some of the NZT that's lingering there.
Overall, Limitless is an entertaining film that will keep you interested for almost 2 hours, but it doesn't really have that extra sparkle that shoots it into the "amazing" territory. Burger tries to do just that with the fast paced, exciting shots and sequences, but even with the creative shooting tactics, it's not quite there. Greater intensity and a bit more quick banter between the characters would have improved the film significantly.