Limitless should be so much smarter than it is and has great potential that it does not fulfil. The movie is about a down-and-out writer who takes a “smart pill,” which allows him to instantly overcome his writers block, write a complete book in four days, learn multiple foreign languages in hours and run rings around lawyers, criminals and financial advisers.
He’s turned into a mega-brain, a Superman for the Information Age. The protagonist is well played by the gorgeous Bradley Cooper, who performs the transformations with ease, but once the movie turns him into a mega-brain, its makers can’t quite figure out what to do with him. Do we want him to be funny or serious? First the movie puts him through a few “magic tricks” that look like an audition for Wall Street 3: A Money Mind Never Sleeps. After this, it throws him into a routine paranoid action thriller. Disappointing to say the least. The body of the movie soon becomes drawn out and tedious.
A New York author named Eddie Morra (Cooper) is faced with monumental “writer’s block” so much so that he hasn’t written a single word of a long overdue novel, then gets a sweet goodbye from his long-suffering girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish). By chance, he runs into his former-brother-in-law (Johnny Whitworth). Always a slick hustler and drug dealer, who is pushing a new, unregulated drug called NZT. Naturally, he gives Eddie a sample.
The pill allows Eddie access to 100% of his brain rather than the usual 20%. The effect apparently wears off in a day, but when Eddie goes back to his supplier for more pills he finds that another client in an even more serious situation has murdered him. Fortunately, Eddie is able to find (without benefit of a smart pill) the entire drug stash, enough for many, many months.
In no time, “enhanced Eddie” has dashed off his novel, speaks multiple languages, has sex with every girl he desires and amasses a fortune playing the stock market. His girlfriend now wants him back(surprise surprise) and a mega-mogul, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) – gotta love that name — brings him aboard to mastermind a huge corporate merger.
All kinds of visual trickery is used to imagine the hyperflow of information into a highly receptive brain: When Eddie is writing, letters fall from the ceiling; multiple Eddies are seen performing tasks; flattering light gently bathes Eddie’s face; and, in the most inventive yet strangely unsuccessful gimmick, the camera appears to rush through Manhattan streets, gobbling up blocks within seconds. Many of these visual tricks are amusing and effective but others are just overkill and I have to say hurt your eyes to watch.
The movie takes a couple of twists and turns before getting to the effects of such persistent and strenuous use of a such an altering drug. First, Eddie switches careers by becoming the overnight wonder boy of Wall Street, a turn that brings the movie to a near halt that stops just short of power-point boredom.
Then gangsters and stalkers begin to shadow him, police begin to question his every excursion. It feels like a desperate attempt to up the suspense ante, and meanwhile potentially fruitful plot elements such as Eddie’s newfound relationship with Libby and his confrontation with an ex-wife (Anna Friel), who suffers from the aftereffects of prolonged NZT use, get tossed aside.
Well, filmmakers tell the stories they want to tell, but here those choices compromised the movie –instead of letting this tale run its natural course, it indulges in the kind of bloody showdown you can see in any number of crude genre movies. While this is not the worst movie ever made it does not deserve the accalades that it is receiving by the masses.