Saturday, 14 March 2015

Limitless - Neil Burger - 2011

A new spin on the time-honoured science-fiction dream that humans only use up to 20% of the brain but could access super-human powers if only they could unlock the remaining 80%, Limitless crams all of the above into one easy-to-use pill for a major exercise in wish fulfilment. Bradley Cooper, the new pretty boy on the Hollywood block, plays struggling writer Eddie Morra who almost overnight becomes a literary genius, makes a shedload of money and pulls women left, right and centre including the beautiful Abbie Cornish, all with the help of NZT, an off-market pill that falls into his possession in dubious circumstances. The first hour of this is a lot of fun as Eddie delights in his new-found potential and director Neil Burger neatly utilises the concept to tap into everyone’s fantasies of being effortlessly cool, always knowing the right things to say at parties and having the disposable income to fly away to sun-kissed locales at a moments notice. Cooper is a charming but self-deprecating leading man bringing a nice line of dry humour to his voiceover that punctures the ridiculous ease with which things now become possible, ensuring Eddie’s antics remain relatable. In the second hour though when the bubble inevitably bursts, the film descends into regular thriller territory as Eddie is forced to defend his secret from one-dimensional gangsters (Andrew Howard, Tomas Arana), dodge questions from a suspicious business tycoon (Robert De Niro) and deal with the comedown from the pills in a poorly disguised warning about the dangers of drugs. Burger demonstrates some great technical flair when visually representing the drug’s ups and side effects – moments where words and numbers rain from the ceiling as Eddie learns at high speed work well, whilst a walk through the city that is blurred into a single shot is particularly impressive – but both he and the writers seemingly run out of steam when trying to come up with an ending. Stuck between trying to create a satisfactory climax and sending out some sort of message about drug use, the film peters to an unexpectedly abrupt halt with a street confrontation that feels too low-key and inconclusive for both the concept and the character. Still, if only we could all be like Bradley Cooper...