"What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?" is the tag line for Limitless, a film adaptation of Alan Glynn's novel that plays with the notion that we only use part of our minds. Just like the little blue sex wonder drug, Limitless imagines the scenario if a drug could be designed to harness our mind's full potential. If scientists could do it for our penises, there must be a way to get the other head working too?
Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a struggling writer, who comes to possess a miracle drug after bumping into his ex-wife's dubious brother. After completing his first draft overnight and rearranging his life, Morra is convinced that he's stumbled on the medical breakthrough of the millennium. However, the side effects and consequences of his new dependence create a dangerous situation, which put his health and livelihood at stake.
This is Bradley Cooper's star vehicle, a film to show he can be a leading man and not just another Face. Cooper is a good looking guy, which generally aids actors to the point that they have to start proving they can in fact act. Cooper is likable, charming and can play a lead character - but he isn't on his own. He's supported by Abbie Cornish, an Australian actress who has just recently cracked the Hollywood market with starring performances in Limitless and Sucker Punch... you may also remember her from Bright Star and Candy.
If an up-and-coming Aussie actress wasn't enough, one of Hollywood's heavyweights... Robert De Niro has also been added to the team. De Niro hasn't been at his best over the last few years, but has a few great moments with Cooper, especially when the interactions mimic that of The Apprentice. Although, the driving influence behind this film is most definitely an appreciation for Darren Aronofsky's work.
Neil Burger is quickly becoming a go-to director with The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones and now Limitless to his credit. Although, Limitless seems more like a derivative of Pi and Requiem for a Dream. The film has been influenced by Pi for its rapid editing, flurry of visual paranoia and its claustrophobic camerawork. Instead of being black-and-white, Limitless has embraced colour and light to express an enhanced enlightenment in the heightened awareness drug state. It's a cleaner, more commercial version of Pi - tweaking the story to portray a drug-infused mastermind rather than a gritty numbers genius on the verge of implosion.
Morra's deterioration and drug use can be aligned with Requiem for a Dream, making Limitless heavily influenced by Aronofsky. The collaboration works well enough to carry the film without too much Pi baggage, yet the echo is still there. Burger is a writer-director, and Limitless marks his first feature where he's only credited with direction. Perhaps he felt more at liberty to play with a script that wasn't his own?
Limitless is more about entertainment than trying to break new ground artistically. It succeeds in presenting a beautifully filmed and surreal mystery thriller in the same league as Cypher. The concept of a pill that could make you rich and powerful is the sort of plot device an Eddie Murphy comedy may use. However, it's been treated with a sharper edge in a hostile and threatening environment in Limitless.
The performances are good, the story is compelling and it's been handled quite crisply in its adaptation from novel to film. Limitless has blinding moments where it touches the glass ceiling, but never really breaks through - hampered by its Aronofsky affinity and a diluted antagonist. A strong thriller with an equally solid cast, it's one of those well-rounded and enjoyable movie experiences that delivers the goods. The film's overall entertainment value smooths over minor flaws like the ending... well, at least he didn't wake up to discover it was just a dream.
The bottom line: Sleek.