Unreal Movie Review: Limitless

4.5 out of 5 stars

What would a drug need to do to make you an addict?

I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have never tried drugs. There are a few who have never drunk or smoked a cigarette, more who have never lit up a joint or eaten a mushroom, and the vast majority more who haven’t tried coke or heroin or meth.

But even if you have, it usually takes more than curiosity to become an addict. The pursuit of a high isn’t a life-ruining calling for the majority of people, but what if a drug had a different intended result?

What if a pill could make you a better version of yourself? Not just a motivated, intelligent you, but it opened up your brain to such a degree that you could be the smartest person on the planet, devouring knowledge and useful skills to a point where you became almost…superhuman.

I’d take that drug, and I doubt I could ever stop.

It will also force you into a sensible hairstyle.

Could anyone? That’s the question that Limitless poses when it introduces the pill NZT. A struggling writer with nothing to lose (Bradley Cooper) downs the drug  not knowing its effects. But when he finds himself motivated enough to churn out 90 pages of brilliance for his novel and regurgitating enough knowledge about law to impress and bed the cute student in his building, he thinks he’s found his miracle drug.

Eddie tracks down the man who gave it to him, but soon finds him dead and his place ransacked. It seems a past client got tired of the $800 a pill payment plan and wanted the whole stash for himself. Eddie scours the apartment and finds the motherload the intruder missed, a bag of hundreds of pills tucked underneath the stove.

When you have a four digit IQ, things can change pretty rapidly. Eddie finds himself able to learn an entire language in a hour, count cards at the casino, and most importantly, find a money making algorithm in the stock market which nets him millions in a matter of days.

Learn how to pose like a businessman.

Soon Eddie’s rising star catches the eye of a billionaire investor (Robert De Niro), but he also discovers that he’s not the only person out there on the drug, using its power to increase their standing.

Worse yet, as Eddie piles on more and more pills to increase his rate of knowledge intake, side effects start to show themselves. Headaches, nausea, blackouts, what price will he have to pay for his brilliance? And what happens when there’s not one more pill left?

Whoever came up with the concept for this story must have been on NZT themselves. It really is incredibly interesting, and could make you question things about your own life. Are you limiting yourself by your own diminished standards? Could you be out there improving your life? You probably won’t learn French tomorrow or make a million shorting stocks, but when I woke up today and picked up my room and went to the gym for a change, I have to respect the film that inspired such behavior.

“Give me more pills. I want nice leather jacket like you, I am still in Members Only.”

It’s fascinating to watch all the different possibilities of NZT unfold, and how Eddie uses it in his attempt to not only improve his life, but theoretically conquer the world. Cooper is great in the rags to riches role, and he reportedly had to beg De Niro to join the film, which turns out is one of the best movies the grizzled actor has been a part of in years.

I was waiting for the film to fall victim to a plothole that had been nagging me for the duration. If you were the smartest human alive, and had a limited resource that made you that way, wouldn’t you immediately learn everything there is to know about chemistry, and set to making an unlimited amount of pills for yourself?

That would kind of be like Aladdin wishing for more wishes from the Genie, as it wouldn’t have made the film quite as compelling, but I was surprised to see the issue actually addressed in a beautifully scripted ending that turns the entire film on its head. I was expecting a cautionary tale, and maybe even some vague commentary on the use and abuse of Adderall or Ritalin in today’s society, but what I got was a conclusion far more satisfying than what I had anticipated.

Limitless will stay with you. It’s a great original concept (well, one based on an original book) and I can’t remember seeing a film quite like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go read a book.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. paul, i thoroughly read it if that helps you out at all. i like the new format of you putting the review on the front page before the jump

    ps- explorers, have you seen/heard of it?

  2. I like the stars at the top because I do not get tempted into reading any spoilers. I usually come back and read your reviews after I see the movie, to see what we agree on.

  3. Thanks for the review Paul. I wasn’t sure about this one. I read another review that butchered the movie, but I wasn’t quite convinced. However, I’ll take your word over some other dude’s. Keep up the good work!

  4. @Paul

    Maybe it’s just me but I don’t like reading reviews before I’ve seen the movie. I also never watch trailers. If you give a movie more than 3 stars I will watch it. After that I will read your review to see of I agree with you, as is often the case.

  5. @Drester

    Yeah, I do that too actually. More because I know I have to write my own, but also because why go into a movie with a preconceived notion of how it’s going to be based on one guys opinion? That’s why I don’t mind my reviews running after opening weekend.

  6. HA! If it was your review on Splice that made me watch that movie (I still am amazed at my own power to watch it till the end), I wonder whether I should watch this one… hehehehe

  7. If you’re so interested in achieving the effect of this drug, why not start meditating? It probably wont give you a four digit IQ, but I guess it’s about the closest you’ll get to the effect of this drug here in the “real”, non-fiction world. You don’t have to believe in any higher being, join a cult or have it be a religious thing; though I can definitely see how meditation fits in nicely with religions like Taoism or Buddhism, it doesn’t have to be about stuff like that. I’m an atheist/agnostic, and I view it simply as an activity, like running. Boiled to the essence, meditation simply is a thing of the brain, and therefore a thing of the mind and body, and it definitely improves your brain (and life) in the long run.
    It takes a bit of your time of course, but view it as a great investment in yourself and your life. And if you don’t get the “mind effect” out of it, then at least you’ll probably be more relaxed and happier. And apparently it’s good for your health too.

    About the stars, I like them at the top. Almost always do I start with checking the rating first. When I haven’t seen a movie yet, I’m more interesting in the general opinion of critics/opinion of critics I’m interested in, and then after I’ve actually seen the movie I’m interested in the specifics (though I’ll sometimes also read the review before watching the movie, if it’s spoiler-free).

  8. I couldn’t disagree with you more. This movie was terrible. I called out everything that happened. And the chase scene in the park with his GF was so stupid.

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