Friday, March 18, 2011


You've heard it said before that the average human only uses about twenty percent of his brain's total potential. If you believe this, then that means even the smartest amongst us could be so much more if only we could figure out how to access the rest of our brainpower. Now what if someone offered you a pill that could make you the best you that you could possibly be? What if you could exceed the current boundaries of your mental capacity? What if you could become “Limitless”?

“Limitless” is the new film from director Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) starring Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”) as Eddie Morra, a writer struggling with a combination of writer's block and his natural tendency for self-sabotage. Eddie is not having a good time of things, his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish: “Sucker Punch”), has finally grown tired of his crap and dumped him, he's behind on the rent, and he has a deadline rushing towards him without a single word written.

In the depths of his despair he meets up with his ex-wife's brother, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth: “CSI: Miami”), who at first mistakes him for a homeless man. After listening to a brief, but frank, description of Eddie's situation, Vernon offers him a small, transparent pill that he promises will turn things around for him. Deciding that things could hardly get worse, Eddie takes the pill.

Within moments, Eddie realizes that he can access the memories of anything he's ever seen; he can learn languages in hours, he can motivate himself to stop being a complete slob, he can even get past his writer's block and finish his novel with speed that would make Stephen King jealous (it certainly makes me jealous). It basically turns him into a combination of Chuck Bartowski and Shawn Spencer, but without the silliness that you might expect from either. Eddie is amazed at what he can do when he doesn't get in his way.

As with all drugs, there are drawbacks. The drug wears off in less than a day, returning Eddie to his slobby, stupid self. It turns out that intelligence is addictive, and he wants more. Unfortunately the side effects can be much worse than just becoming stupid again. Before he knows it, Eddie is trying to juggle finding a steady supply of the drug, dealing with a Russian loan shark (Andrew Howard: “Revolver”), working with a business mogul (Robert De Niro), and figuring out what to do about the creepy guy who is suddenly following him everywhere he goes.

The visual style of “Limitless” is fantastic. The movie uses some interesting visual effects when Eddie gets into his writing groove, and when he starts to experience some of the drug's side effects, but the best effects for me were simply what happened whenever Eddie would take the pill. As the pill kicks in the world around him visibly brightens and the colour grown warm to help the audience see the clarity with which he now sees the world.

De Niro's role in the film, though smaller than the trailers would have you believe (not that you should ever trust trailers anyway), is still a good example of him playing exactly the sort of pompous character he is good at; even when he is smiling and laughing, it's obvious that you are never more than one stupid move away from being on his excrement list. Cooper and De Niro have a great on-screen chemistry as they play back and forth with Carl Van Loon's thin veneer of joviality over ruthless greed and Morra's slick, but naive, self-confidence. It is a lot of fun to see them on the screen together.

This is an easy movie to enjoy, but there are some pretty big issues with it. First of all, for someone who maybe the smartest man on Earth, Morra misjudges or overlooks a lot of things that I, with my normal dumb brain, saw almost immediately. Now maybe he's just not very genre savvy, but some of the things he screws up on seem more like plot-hole issues than something his character would really not think of. The other thing, and this may not really be an issue, is that many, but not all, of the film's twists are easy to predict if you are paying attention. While the movie is a lot more subtle about foreshadowing than, say, “Red Riding Hood” was, it still was a little annoying to me to be able to spot these things before the super-genius did. That said, the overall movie is more than enjoyable enough for me to forgive it its flaws.

“Limitless” is a fun, stylish, well done film with a strong cast, a decent soundtrack, and what is probably the best use of a small child as a weapon that you will ever see. It's not likely to go down as a modern classic, but it is a very enjoyable drama with a strong sense of humour, and an interesting science fiction concept. If you're heading out to the theaters this weekend and you want to see something that will appeal to your higher brain functions, then I strongly suggest you check out this film.

“Limitless” is in theaters now.

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