Review: Limitless (2011)

Directed by Neil Burger, Limitless is a techno-thriller based on the Alan Glynn novel: The Dark Fields.

A copywriter, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super-human abilities. As his usage begins to change his life, he starts to consider the drugs shadowy origins. Meanwhile, a group of killers follow his every move.

This premise is very interesting and, while far-fetched, touches upon some pretty serious issues – the most important being drug usage and addiction. This helps keep the somewhat implausible scenario grounded.

However, despite effectively letting the audience bring their own experiences to the table, none of the issues are wrapped up in a clear and dignified manner, and are often skimmed over with an irritating level of disregard.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as, along with Cooper’s tongue-in-cheek performance, the narrative manages to remain simplistic enough throughout, never taking itself too seriously. It’s only in the final act, where all the loose ends are being haphazardly pieced together, that the cracks are exposed.

Similarly, characters are introduced left, right and centre – and disposed of almost as quickly. Understandably, the film is too short to explore everyone’s backstories, but certain people – such as Anna Friel’s Melissa and Abbie Cornish’s Lindy – are too fascinating to be so brazenly wasted.

Burger is clearly an extremely talented filmmaker. He creates a very stylized, visually intriguing world: a dimension that wonderfully emphasizes what the characters experience when ingesting the harmless-looking NZT-48 pill.

Cooper embodies Eddie perfectly, continuing his growth as a very adept actor. There’s something enthralling in his impoverished style that makes him wholly appealing, and the ideal choice for the role.

Eddie’s first-person narration, with its deliriously fast pace, not only compliments the visual side effects of the pill, but also offers a smart insight into the serious impacts drug-taking can have on an individuals lifecycle.

Robert De Niro delivers a solid turn as businessman Carl Van Loon, but feels an odd fit for such a under-developed and audacious character.

Abbie Cornish and Johnny Whitworth are believable enough in their respective roles, and Anna Friel brings an oddly likable, honest and raw nature to Eddie’s ex-wife. Nevertheless, none are employed as much as their talents demand.

Limitless, on the whole, is harmless entertainment and, at 105 minutes, offers a pleasant enough distraction, even managing to pose some meaningful, thought-provoking questions along the way.

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