Limitless is actually quite limited
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written by: Leslie Dixon (screenplay), Alan Glynn (novel)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Abbie Cornish
While I haven’t read the novel by Alan Gynn, on which Limitless has been adapted, I can already tell that the movie lacks the written form’s edginess, compelling cliffhangers and darkly amusing style. Because while novels engage us through our own imagination and overflowing wordiness can often be used to the story’s advantage, its appropriation to the screen doesn’t do justice to the original concept behind relatively unexciting action and repetitive visual effects.
Eddie Morra (Cooper) is a struggling writer who has had relationships as unstable as his financial situation. But when he runs into his ex brother-in-law, who offers Eddie a yet-to-be-legal pill called NZT, things take a dramatic turn in Eddie’s writing, his ambitions and his life. From creative genius to a prophet in the financial world, Eddie uses NZT’s power to tap into 100% of his brain and win back an ex-girlfriend (Cornish) he’s still in love with. Just when things seem to be going good, Eddie discovers there are deadly side-effects to the highly addictive drug, and that he will soon run out if he isn’t careful with who he shares his information with. There are limits, after all.
Limitless equates the power of intellectual knowledge with wealth, prestigious standings and influential friends. And the addictiveness of being a prodigy at something, learning new information/skills and being able to demonstrate this to the world is likened to the quality of the glorious drug. The down side of such success, however, is how long you can keep up the act and the continuously pursuing fear of having to return to normality and the loser low-life you had before. As Eddie walks this exciting, yet dangerously unpredictable line towards maintaining the good life, Limitless ultimately tries to capture the compelling nature of what’s at stake through its direction and editing. Unfortunately, the visual trippiness of Limitless falls into comfortable effects that aren’t necessarily original or impressive, steadily becoming too engaged with action thrills and violence. Had the film adopted a darker visual style, or one that was more bizarre and playful, we would have been kinder to ignore the over-used voice over and appreciate the novel more than the film (even without having to read it).