Limitless is a worthwhile indulgence

Directed by Neil Burger and adapted from the novel Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, Limitless is an exploration into the consciousness of a man whose ultimate potential is unlocked by an experimental drug known as “NZT.” Writer Eddie Morra (played by Bradley Cooper) finds himself behind on a novel, dumped by his girlfriend and spiraling into a depressing state of underachievement. While wandering New York in his miserable condition, he bumps into his ex-brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) who offers to help “lift his spirits.” Vernon hands Eddie a pill guaranteed to increase his productivity and falsely promises that the medication is scientifically tested and FDA approved. Skeptical but desperate, Eddie gives it a shot.

Almost immediately, he is catapulted into a state of hyper-awareness and intellectual savvy that allows him to learn new languages in a snap, focus without distraction, socialize without vulnerability and finish his book in record time. Not only are his current intellectual skills improved, he discovers an enhanced ability to tap into his memories, retrieving information learned years earlier that had long since slipped out of reach. Half-read articles from college and films from his youth become treasure troves of knowledge. As Eddie climbs the proverbial ladder to success, so too does his dependency on the drug and his list of enemies.

The film begins with an intense flash-forward to Eddie teetering on the brink of disaster, followed by a stunning credit sequence featuring a roller-coaster of urban imagery. Right from the get-go the audience is tempted with suspenseful narrative context and lush visuals. Those who find it difficult to imagine Bradley Cooper as a pathetic, unattractive loser with a hygiene problem won’t have to wait long before his drug-induced state transforms him into the model of modern accomplishment.

The film’s form runs parallel to this metamorphosis; the dismal blues and cold imagery indicative of Eddie’s dreary state are replaced by vivid yellows and sharp photography illustrating his enhanced mental prowess and attention to detail. The camera is also aligned with Eddie’s consciousness as he changes. His increased perceptiveness is mirrored through the use of fish-eye lenses and rapid editing while his subsequent fall from grace is characterized by throbbing, hand-held camerawork. Based on the film’s cinematic quality alone, Limitless is worth the price of a theatre ticket just to see its striking visual style on the big screen. Add to that the impressive performances by Cooper and supporting actor Robert De Niro and the result is a film with technical, narrative and star appeal.

The experience of urban life through the eyes of a hyper-intellectual, adrenaline-seeking drug user is not a ride to be missed. Limitless is engaging, entertaining and stimulating for both the mind and the eye. Audiences will find themselves vicariously inspired by Eddie’s fierce lifestyle, but not enough to suggest that drugs are the answer to life’s creative and mental hurdles. Ultimately, it is a hypothetical scenario featuring a drug that thankfully doesn’t exist — the film, however, is a welcome indulgence.

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