By: Andrew Walsh
Limitless is the story of a struggling writer who happens upon a miracle drug that unlocks the hidden potential of his brain and allows his mind to focus and work at superhuman levels… that sounds like a pretty cool idea to me. It’s not wild and altogether unbelievable but has enough room with which it can be creative. Unfortunately, this is not entirely the case when it comes to the movie as a whole.
We follow Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) as the struggling writer. As he takes the wonder drug and seems to be solving all the problems in his life Eddie soon realizes he is in way over his head and now has multiple enemies gunning for the secret to his success.
Honestly, that’s about it. There are a few threads dealing with Eddie’s girlfriend, Robert De Niro in the one-note role of “Mean Businessman #1,” a half-assed murder mystery that is ultimately glazed over in about 5 seconds, and something about Russian gangsters who are after the miracle drug. None of these threads seem to come to fruition and all ends up becoming so much noise.
The big problem with the movie is, ironically, a lack of focus. All of those storylines are happening all at once, they all have an equal impact on the story, yet all of them feel equally unimportant compared to one another. It would be much more interesting if they had dropped one of these storylines, especially if they could have focused more on the characters. Also, each story only plays at face value: there are no real world parallels, metaphors, analogies, etc. The miracle drug is not a metaphor for heroin nor is there any thought given to whether or not Eddie remains the same person while he is on the drug (or rather, they mention the idea in one scene and then drop it completely).
That being said, the more technical side of things is far more impressive. While most of the cinematography is a whole lot of unspectacular medium-shots and tracking-shots for most of the film, there are short glimpses of genius. In particular, there is an effect that is repeated several times in which the camera travels forward on a straight path for what must be multiple blocks on the streets of New York. I have never seen anything like it and I applaud whoever came up with such a brilliant and unique effect. Also, I like the detail of enhancing the color saturation of the film whenever Eddie is on the drug. It’s a subtle detail that becomes a shorthand for telling you he is currently on the drug, as opposed to constantly showing him take it onscreen.
At the end of the day Limitless is an entertaining movie with some cool ideas that unfortunately don’t ever pay off. You’ll probably have fun, but you might be yearning for something more…