Directed by Neil Burger, Written by Leslie Dixon and Alan Glynn (novel), 105 minutes, PG-13.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
If you could access every corner of your brain, what would you? Write an epic sci-fi manifesto? Play the stock market? Or simply take your chances with some murderous gangsters? Well, if you’re Eddie Morra in “Limitless,” you dip your hands in a little bit of everything, even if the results aren’t always as boundless as they may appear.
Bradley Cooper stars as Morra, a down on his luck writer, with an overdue book, struggling for a way out. Then, a chance encounter provides him with one. Eddie runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vern (Johnny Whitworth), who offers him an experimental new drug called MDT, designed to open all of the closed doors of his mind.
Within moments of taking his first dose, Morra is hooked. MDT allows him to finish his book with speed and success, but he wants more. Morra takes a $100,000 loan from a local hitman (Andrew Howard) and plays the stock market, where he meets Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), a market mogul impressed by Morra’s quick rise to success.
However, as the drug begins to take hold of Eddie’s life, his drug-induced fantasy turns into a violent, paranoid nightmare. And as he loses control, everyone he meets on the way up, shows up to kick him on the way back down.
Neil Burger’s “Limitless” commits completely to its conceit of the wonder drug that can make anyone’s dreams come true. His visceral effects and clever editing lend to a kinetic ride, if not a disorienting one. Morra’s out-of-body experiences have hints of “Fight Club” and “Requiem for a Dream,” but Burger’s camera work never entirely matches the coolness of the idea or his star.
Bradley Cooper manages the many sides of Morra successfully, shifting from hapless writer to suave Wall Street mastermind to drug fiend seamlessly. Burger captures Morra’s growth effectively, and in a movie about a guy who learns twice as fast as a normal man, this goes a long way towards making his journey engaging.
“Limitless” delivers the goods in terms of fun, suspense, and an above average story. The twists and turns never appear without reason, and with Cooper delivering an assured, charismatic performance, Morra’s problems grab the audience and bring them closer to the film.
Burger’s direction may not be as cool or subtle as others, but it certainly gets the point across. He concentrates his efforts on getting us to like Morra, and Cooper, who generally plays a downright jerk, actually comes off as likable. “Limitless” may be bound by its constraints, yet its story is addictive enough to leave you wanting more.