Sep 19, 2011

[Movies] Limitless (2011)

Limitless (2011)My partner and I had opted not to catch this movie in the theater for one reason or another. Maybe the concept just didn't draw us in. Maybe the trailer didn't represent the movie well. Maybe we were still traumatized by that horrible remake of The A-Team. Thus despite the reasonably attractive Bradley Cooper, this movie was relegated to the "will catch on home video" category of movies for this year.

Thus the timing of this review, given we only recently got around to watching it.

Now Bradley Cooper's core charm, I feel, is when he's truly charming. In his earlier years on Alias, he managed to present that cute, awkward nerdy kind of charming which was pretty cute. In other movies they've had him be all dashing and debonair charming. And now that he has the muscles to augment his charms, Hollywood has been doing its best to make him romantic comedy leading man material of the extra charming variety.

This movie had us going back to him being in a more cerebral role. But he wasn't charming. And maybe that helped kill this movie for me.

Limitless is a 2011 action thriller based on the book The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. The movie adaptation was directed by Neil Burger with a screenplay by Leslie Dixon.

Bradley Cooper at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festiv...Image via WikipediaOur central protagonist is Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a struggling writer based in New York. Things aren't going too well for him given his inability to meet his work obligations and the loss of his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish). As things would have it, he manages to bump into his "ex brother-in-law" Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who happens to be a drug dealer. He offers Eddie a new drug called NZT-48 that promises to unlock his full mental potential. While skeptical at first, Eddie is surprised by how potent the drug is and he manages to finish writing his book in less than a day.

But when the drug's effects wear out, he finds himself back to his old dreary self. Desperate to continue to exploit the benefits of the drug, he pays another visit to Vernon to get more. However, the drug isn't exactly cheap and thus Vernon sends him off on errands as a way to start paying him back. But by the time Eddie returns, Vernon has been murdered. Before the police arrive on the scene, Eddie proceeds to search Vernon's apartment to find his stash of NZT-48 in order to still exploit his new-found abilities while using the drug in order to better his life. But given Vernon's death, clearly there are people out there who also know about NZT-48 and are pretty determined to get it back.

Like many book-to-movie translations, the on-going thinking of the protagonist was turned into a voiceover narrative over most of the movie. While such things tend to work well enough in books, they don't always translate well when it comes to film. Even I have to admit that the amount of voiceovers in the first Dune movie didn't do much for it and I felt the same way about this movie. My partner speculated that maybe the director was going for a more European-style to how he wanted this movie to be portrayed, but it didn't quite work out that way.

The core concept of the movie reminds me a lot of the kind of stuff discussed in that Silva Mind Control method where it's presented that every human being has an alpha state where one can access everything one has ever read, seen or experienced. Of course we rarely manage to reach that alpha state and so we tend to forget things unless we really work on committing them to memory. Similarly, the effects of the fictional drug NZT-48 try to allow one access to 100% of your brain's potential, thus allowing a person to live in a weird hyper time sort of state of mental efficiency.

I appreciated a lot of the "limitless" sequences in terms of the movie treatment. They have a nice distinct visual styling to things that made it pretty clear he was almost transcending to a different plane plus the repetition of images or duplicating of Eddie to show him doing many different things was pretty cool.

But beyond that, the narrative just lacked the kind of impact that would have made this movie a lot better than how it turned out. Instead of being drawn further and further into the story, one can't help but just sit back and think about lunch as Bradley Cooper's voice drones on and one as things continue to happen around him on the screen. I didn't even get why they cast Robert de Niro in this movie - his role felt very hollow and underdeveloped and could have been portrayed by almost anyone.

Or maybe I was just expecting too much from a movie that's all about being smarter than most, or something like that.

Limitless remains a decent movie that lacks the action elements to make it a true popcorn kind of flick for easy enjoyment. I don't mind having seen it, but I'm sure I made the decision in not rushing to catch it given today's ticket prices either. It gets 2.5 crazy depictions of what hyper-intelligence can accomplish (hello Watchmen's Ozymandias?) out of a possible 5.

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