Movie Review: Limitless


Considering the trippy, very cognitive nature of this movie, that it felt like one big long ‘Hangover’ from Bradley Cooper. Shit Joke Alert! And I’m starting off early this time. I think that Limitless makes my personal Top 5 favourites movies, joining movies like Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Shawshank Redemption, Bulletproof Monk and Disturbia. So it’s fair to say that I really enjoy this movie, and would recommend it to anyone, but it is far from perfect. I also have to say that the 2015 TV series, of the same name, which is actually a spin-off/continuation of the movie is much better than the movie.

First off it opens with narration, which you either like or loathe, and in this case I was undecided, it didn’t bother me when I first watched it, but I do feel that with hindsight it is a little lazy.

I did really like Bradley Cooper’s casting as Eddie Morra, in this movie, although they really had to work to make him look ‘ugly’ at the beginning of the movie, but I do have to say to the makers of this movie, that a ragged ponytail and bags under your eyes, does not an ugly man make.

Something that’s always bugged me is that the inciting incident of the movie was Eddie having a chance encounter with his ex brother-in-law, who also happens to be a small time drug dealer, and that’s who introduces him to the miracle drug that is NZT. I just felt like it was such a strained connection, that in my opinion didn’t really work. They could have just went about it so many other ways, that would have worked just as well. For example, he’s a struggling writer initially, those types, and I generalise only because I am also one of those types, tend to take any work that comes up, regardless of how sketchy it is, he could easily have taken a part time job in a company responsible for packing and distributing drugs, and stumbled upon a secret side project manufacturing the nootropic in question and it would have made a whole lot more sense or at least been more satisfying in terms on narrative. Side note to that point, and Eddie’s own internal dialogue confirms it, but he and Vernon were never really friends, and clearly based on the events of the movie he was aware of the danger involved in possessing the drug, so why would Vernon who he has such a tenuous connection with, risk giving him an expensive designer drug, especially considering the Eddie he meets looks rough and very obviously like he’s struggling for cash so if Vernon was trying to get repeat business then Eddie isn’t exactly the basket in which I would like to place all of my eggs.

While I’m talking about Nootropics, (a topic I also covered in a product review, which you can check out here), the NZT pill in this movie, amazing though it would be if it existed, is based on that fallacy that we only use 10% of our brain. It really seems like Hollywood, who latched onto this idea, think we are all collectively goldfish or something. I think the reason this fallacy persists is because it plays into the idea that we are more than we appear to be, that each of us is special and we just need some inciting incident to unlock that hidden part of ourselves. I mean it’s the core idea of hundreds of stories, and it’s a very human concept, it encourages us to dream and hope, which are always good things. So why not take a pill that makes you super smart, or if you happen to be called Lucy (and I never realised until I was researching for this review, just how much that movie borrows from this one in the broad strokes) one that instead grants you omniscience and telekinesis. 

While we are talking about the drug, the initial scene where he takes the drug and we see it’s effect for the first time is among my favourite scenes in the entire movie. The visuals are just so engaging and representative, for example his brain sparks up, like the proverbial light bulb being switched on, suddenly everything is brighter, and he can really see the world.

Something I really liked is that once you take away the drugs, the fancy suits and the drama, this movie can be boiled down to nerd wish fulfilment, after all who else would seriously think that a few smart observations, however charismatically they are put, could get you laid. But then again, strip away the ponytail and the five 0’clock shadow, and Eddie Morra is obviously the very handsome Bradley Cooper, so I’d let that side as well.

I do wish I could have just one of those pills to get started on my own novel, which at this point is about 6 years in the making and amounts to little more than lots of notes, ideas and good feelings. 

I am a huge fan of interesting or creative visual effects, the ones Limitless uses to suggest Eddie’s high intellect is similar to BBC’s Sherlock, and while that makes it automatically less unique, that isn’t a big issue for me, as I feel it works well, and helps to visually represent the process of a power mind at work in a way the audience can follow. I think it’s a fun style that more media should employ.

Something else that’s always kind of bugged me, was the scene, following his first use of NZT where he delivers the requested 90 pages of his manuscript to the publisher, she seems surprised, almost shocked. I guess, he’s probably let her down more than once and burned through any good will she otherwise might have had for him, but if she was that surprised then why take a chance on an unkempt layabout like Eddie if him actually delivering on his contractual obligations was met with such obvious surprise. On a personal level, as someone who aspires to be a writer, I really wish a publisher would take the same kind of chance on this unkempt layabout. Speaking of which, smart or not, a great 90 pages or not, leaving him three messages between him leaving her office and returning home, he either wrote the next Bible/Da Vinci Code/Harry Potter or more likely that publishing house was really struggling, and was desperate for any new material.

Jumping back to the visual again, and sorry about going back and forth, I apologise for any whiplash. I liked the scenes where he’s speeding forward, it shows the linear, overclocked nature of his brain, his mind is going so fast, it’s tearing forward, and we see the effect of this through his lapses in memory and consciousness. Personally this really worked for me as it showed that their are consequences to every single neuron and synapse firing all at once 24/7.

This movie also makes great use of colour to let you know what’s going on. When he’s on NZT everything is bright, rich and vibrant, and when he’s off the drug, everything is dark, dull and gritty like a modern superhero movie.

Another of my favourite scenes was the fight scene in the subway, not only was it a flurry of thought and response, befitting a man on a super drug, he even does a great job of managing to look detached like he is just reacting, without it appearing to be fake and overly choreographed like in the matrix for example. I also like that he still got hurt, after all knowledge and the successful application of that knowledge are two very different things, and some recalled Kung Fu fight scene isn’t necessarily going to help you, especially without the physically conditioning to back it up.

Closing thoughts, Eddie apparently finished his book, which is called The Dark Fields (later re-released and renamed as Limitless in 2011 to coincide with the release of the movie) coincidentally the same name as the book on which the movie is based. That’s interesting. He’s also running for senator, and is considering running for the position of president. So we have a morally suspect outsider, with money, running for president…perhaps a little too real. Anyway, the movie is a visual treat, both entertaining and engaging across multiple viewings, and easily earns an 8/10.


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