What is it?
Recently released film by director, Neil Burger, based on Alan Glynn’s novel, The Dark Fields. Bradley Cooper plays the lead character, Eddie Morra, a lank-haired loser with perpetual writer’s block and zero positive outlook in his life. Returning to his grotto of an apartment after being dumped by his girlfriend (a small but meaningful part played confidently by Abbie Cornish), he bumps into his ex-brother-in-law, a fast-talking drug dealer, gone “legitimate” and offering a designer pharmaceutical with almost magical powers. The street value of the drug? $800 per pill, though the first one’s on me. Side-effects? None of course, it’s FDA-approved. The promise? Access to 100% of Eddie’s brain synapse activity.
Supremely sceptical but with little left to lose, Eddie takes the drug… And his world is transformed. A lifetime of memories, previously thought forgotten or barely recorded in the first place, are open to him; detail blossoms from every person he meets, revealing their stories in a glance; words pour out of him, be it into the book over which he has languished for months and now finishes in four days, or in conversation with the rich and the powerful; he sees much much more than he ever has, and he understands it all.
In remapping the neural pathways in his brain, Eddie’s opportunities are, as the film’s title suggests, limitless.
What did we think?
Burger has crafted a film with a juicy plot, great energy and sharp cinematography that deftly communicates both of Eddie’s worlds: off the drug, it is shut to him, sluggish and almost bleached of its colour; on the drug, it is suffused with myriad detail, information arriving into, and being processed by, his turbo-charged brain with effortless speed. Burger achieves this with subtlety, painting the two worlds without labouring them. Eddie’s new world may know no limits, but the experience is not alien, just magnified and accelerated.
Prior to seeing the film, we were worried that Limitless would be one of those stories centred around an individual accumulating vast power thanks to ill-gotten and easily-lost gains. We feared we would spend its duration nervously counting down the seconds until Eddie overdosed on his wonder-drugs or worse, ran out of them. And while this is a significant dimension of the film’s story arc, there is so much more to it.
Eddie’s two worlds are not black and white, they leak into one another again and again, muddying the edges of his existence, shaping both his ambitions and his fears. His breakneck rise from obscurity to notoriety has more than a little of The Great Gatsby to it – both characters are unknown quantities, passionate, full of themselves and immensely likeable. The similarity even extends to a reckless drive along a cobbled clifftop road in a hot car (the sublime Maserati Granturismo) with a hot woman.
Via nuanced gestures throughout the film, Burger touches on important questions of morality, the warrior spirit and human nature. The drug may be the stuff of science fiction, but Eddie’s experience comes from everyday dreams. Limitless left us sated and, best of all, wanting to do more with our lives: 4 stars.