[Movie Review] Limitless
Have you seen these adverts for The Clear Pill? It’s an interesting advertising campaign for a movie, and it’s not actually pushing a pill that can unlock your brain power – it’s pushing the new Neil Burger film, Limitless.
Limitless is based on the 2001 novel, The Dark Fields, by Alan Glynn. Bradley Cooper is Eddie Morra, a hapless writer who spends more time telling people about his book than he does actually writing it (the fact that he has a book contract without having written a word is cunningly glossed over). A chance encounter with his ex brother-in-law, Vernon, introduces him to NZT, the so-called ‘clear pill’ of the advertising campaign you may have seen. This drug, according to Vernon, allows an individual to access all of their brain, not just the 20% of usual use. NZT allows Eddie to finish his book in four days, learn the piano in three, and pick up languages with the barest of exposure to them.
Soon he discovers the stock market and becomes a financial wunderkind. Of course, it’s not all fun and games – this would be an abysmal thriller if it was – and soon he’s suffering blackouts and fighting off a Russian mobster and a mysterious character known as the Man in Tan Coat, all while wondering if he killed a woman while under a blackout. If that’s not enough, he has to cling on to his job under Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) and preserve his dwindling stash. This film certainly likes to pile adversity onto its hero. Will Eddie work his way out of the trouble caused by NZT?
Limitless is a peculiar brand of thriller, brushing the edges of sci-fi in its exploration of the power of pharmaceuticals and becoming psychadelic in its depiction of the effects those pharmaceuticals might have. The inventive visuals and cyclical nature of the narrative brought Fight Club to mind, and while Cooper is no Norton or Pitt, he’s charismatic enough to carry the role. He manages to balance the scattered pre-NZT writer with the confident post-NZT financier, although both versions of himself are incredibly selfish (he’s always doing things to protect himself, never anyone else). We’re often forced into his view of the world through trippy camera tricks akin to a carnival’s house of mirrors, and one sequence where he runs through the streets of New York brought the Seven Nation Army video to mind. This in itself makes us pose the question…would we take the clear pill?
All in all, I really enjoyed the film, and found it both hugely entertaining and surprisingly intelligent. I award it four clear pills out of five!