Limitless sees Bradley Cooper continue his climb up the A-list ladder. This adaptation of Alan Glynn’s novel The Dark Fields is the first film which Cooper has top lined (he is also an Executive Producer) and he does a commendable job, illustrating that he may have what it takes to be a successful leading man.
Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a blocked writer whose life has hit rock bottom. Eddie owes his publisher a novel, his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has just left him, so Eddie’s future isn’t looking too good, and he doesn’t seem to care. However, a chance meeting with his ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth – coming across like the bizarre love child of Christian Slater and Jim Carrey) lets him know there’s a way of improving his life by using 100% of his brain (as opposed to the 20% that humans normally use). How can he do this? A new drug called NZT-48. The experimental drug makes your mind smarter and clearer, there’s just one downside – it’s highly addictive. Eddie Cranks out his novel in days; learns multiple languages and plays the stock exchange, all which change his financial fortunes. Though, when Eddie discovers Vernon’s dead body and makes off with his stash of NZT, he’s soon being chased by others who also want the drug.
Eddie’s change in fortune leads him to Robert De Niro’s Carl Van Loon, a powerful business man who is fascinated by Eddie’s rapid ascent through Wall Street. He has it made; Lindy returns to his arms, he buys a luxury apartment and becomes a famous face on the New York high society circuit, but this new life teeters on the brink of collapse when Eddie becomes implicated in a murder and discovers that prolonged exposure to the drug will kill him. Has Eddie reached his limit?
On paper the themes of addiction, betrayal and duplicity make Limitless sound like it could be a sci-fi mindbender in the tradition of Vanilla Sky or even Inception but director Neil Burger gives the film a light touch, which coupled with Cooper’s (cocksure) charm makes the film an enjoyable, if somewhat lightweight ride. That’s not really a criticism, it’s quite refreshing to see a film which doesn’t go for dark and gritty, but instead Leslie Dixon’s script shows someone having fun with their newfound powers. Burger’s direction moves the film along at a breakneck pace – some nifty visuals help show Eddie’s NZT “high” and gives the film a kinetic energy that rushes through plot like Eddie through a language tape. The main problem is that it doesn’t really slow down. The film feels like an extended montage of flashing images and pulsating music, and I can’t but think that the film would work better if there was more of a lull in the second act.
Fans of Cooper will be pleased to know that he’s in almost every scene and at times, it appears that he must have a close-up clause in his contact to highlight his ‘piercing’ blue eyes. Cooper isn’t the issue here, it’s the supporting cast that let the side down, and maybe they know that it’s Cooper’s show. De Niro’s role could have been played by anyone – literally. Sure, he needs to pay the bills, but you can’t help but feel that he’s wasted here. Cornish does well with an underwritten role, but it is Andrew Howard as a Russian mobster who appears to be the only one who is willing to give Cooper a run for his money in the screen presence stakes.
Limitless features a well stocked selection of special features including a Commentary by director Neil Burger; an alternate ending that isn’t that different – but it does end the film on a harder note. Also included are a couple of light, puff-piece features and a trailer. Not a bad package – but like the film a bit lacking in depth.