Movie Review: Limitless
Rating: PG-13 (drug use, violence, sexuality and language)
Length: 105 minutes
Release date: March 18, 2011
Directed by: Neil Burger
Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish
Stars: 4 out of 5
What is it like to be the absolutely best version of yourself you could possibly be? That's the question that lies at the center of Director Neil Burger's sci-fi thriller "Limitless." In a little over an hour and a half, Burger attempts to answer that question, taking a failing writer and giving him limitless potential.
Bradley Cooper is the star of "Limitless," portraying failing writer Edward Morra. At the start of the movie, Eddie is at the top of the world, literally. He's about to leap from his penthouse rooftop, attempting to escape from an attempt by persons unknown to break into his apartment. Before he makes what's sure to be a fatal last step, we're taken back to the beginning of his adventure, three months prior.
Three months before Eddie's rooftop excursion, he was just another writer trying to meet a deadline. His life was in a downward spiral both professionally and personally, with writer's blocks preventing him from meeting his deadlines and an ex-girlfriend having freshly dumped him before he hits rock bottom. Into this dire situation steps his ex-brother-in-law Vernon Grant, played by Johnny Whitworth of CSI Miami fame. Vernon holds the key to success for Eddie, a small transparent pill that can unlock his full potential, allowing him to use 100 percent of his brain. Not fully believing in the truth of the drug, Eddie tries it anyway, altering his life forever.
The drug actually works and suddenly Eddie is a changed man. His writer's block instantly disappears, allowing him to finish his book in days. He can learn new languages with ease, he now appreciates the finer things in life, and his math skills quickly earn him a fortune on the stock market. Unfortunately, his new good fortune does not go unnoticed. He soon comes to the attention of business tycoon Carl Van Loon, who wants his advice concerning an upcoming merger.
With the entrance of Carl Van Loon, the action in the film really begins. Van Loon is played to perfection by the incredible Robert De Niro. The character is your typical tycoon, buying and selling companies with ease as he collects the proceeds to add to his growing bank accounts. His relationship with Eddie is at once one of mentor and competitor as he tries to use Eddie's obvious brilliance to his own advantage. Unfortunately, Eddie is beginning to run low on his stash of the drug and encountering a few unfortunate side effects.
Eddie is losing time while on the drug, sometimes for hours, other times for days. He's possibly involved in a few unsavory activities but unsure just how culpable he may be. The lost time is a great tension builder for the film, with Eddie frantically attempting to piece together his missing memories.
The supporting cast of "Limitless" help to drag the film away from what might otherwise have been a cliché plotline. Abby Cornish as Eddie's girlfriend Lindy is hard to resist. She's smart and loving, willing to leave Eddie before he began the drug rather than watch as he wastes his life as a failed writer. After taking the drug, Eddie pursues her, charming her back into his life while also scaring her with his new dependence on medication. Cornish is no neophyte to films, having been in the movie business since the age of 15. This was her second big release in 2011, along with the not so widely acclaimed "Sucker Punch."
Also among the supporting cast is Andrew Howard as Gennedy, the tough-guy Russian mafia loan shark who supplied the seed money for Eddie to build his fortune. Many viewers might recognize Howard from his role as Nikolai in "The Hangover Part II." His role in "Limitless" is a large one, driving much of the action as he chases after Eddie throughout the film for repayment.
Bradley Cooper really shines in the part of "Eddie." He begins the role with a sense of desperation that soon turns to arrogance as his potential is set free. Toward the middle of the film, viewers come to hate what he's become. At that point, it's a waiting game for the inevitable fall from grace evidenced by the opening rooftop scene. As the film progresses, however, he manages to win the audience back over again, regaining his desperate everyman attitude as the world around him begins to once again spiral out of his control.
Robert De Niro also eats up the scenery as usual. His critics have been known to say that De Niro excels at playing himself. If that's true, at least he knows his part well and portrays it with aplomb. His scenes with Cooper are a treat, as they play a game of cat and mouse till the very end of the movie.
Eddie asks himself throughout the movie the question of what it's like to have limitless potential, and Burger manages to show the audience a few examples. In the end, Eddie must decide if the potential was worth the hardships. The movie manages to answer that question as well, with a few twists along the way to Eddie's final truth that make "Limitless" a film worth seeing.