Imagine, if you will, a world where it's possible to solve problems with thinking instead of large-caliber ammunition.
Nope, I can't see it either. In fact, I can't even understand what I just wrote. Hold on, I'm going to shotgun my monitor for a minute and see if that
Well, that didn't work!
Does anyone have any glue? No? How about some twine? Because there's like plastic and these little metal bits just all over the place... you know what, forget the whole thing. These plastic surgery videos won't watch themselves. Anyway, Limitless already showed me what would happen if think-making were made better: we'd be in for a fun little ride.
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Bradley Cooper's life isn't going very well. The deadline for his novel is coming up, and he hasn't written a word. Sensing he's going nowhere, his girlfriend Abbie Cornish breaks up with him. With bills looming, he may have to move back in with his parents.
Until he runs into old friend Johnny Whitworth. A former dealer, he now works for a pharmaceutical company. Seeing Cooper's position, he offers him a taste of their new drug: a pill that will make you absolutely brilliant. A pill that any number of people would kill for.
In one sense, Limitless is my favorite type of movie to cover: the kind where I have absolutely no idea whether it will be so good I'd sell both eyes just to listen to it again or so awful I'd pay someone to take my eyes away just to unsee it.
Intriguing premise? Check.
Actor I don't particularly like in leading role? Check.
Script from Leslie Dixon, the guy who did Pay It Forward? Big, fat, terrible check.
Still, who hasn't dreamed about taking a pill to make yourself a better person?
Limitless title sequence immediately lays down the visual flash with an extended, tunneling, forward-moving shot that's two parts amazing and one part nausea-inducing vertigo. Or maybe that was just the live squid I got from the concession stand. I am unfamiliar with director Neil Burger's other work--I've always thought of The Illusionist as that other movie about stage magicians that couldn't possibly be as good as The Prestige--but he does a strong job visualizing Cooper's quest to make brain smarter now.
His inner voyage is aided by regular narration. Have I mentioned recently I normally hate narration? Oh, only a thousand times? Well, I still do. Except when I don't. And I don't hate Limitless'. Much of Cooper's journey is internal, and Dixon uses voiceover as a way to quickly catch us up to speed before moving on to the next turn of the plot.
A plot, incidentally, that doesn't play out like your average semi-thriller. What does Cooper do with his newfound genius? Well, obviously he sets out to make a boatload of money. What were you expecting, that he'd end world hunger by inventing a potato that plants and peels itself and also tastes like curried love?
So the "I'll use my new supersonic brain to get filthy, stinking rich!" thing isn't terribly original. The resulting curve balls thrown at Cooper--who, instead of smirking, is actually acting here --are much less predictable.
In fact, there are kind of a lot of subplots, and despite its swift pace, Limitless sometimes feels longer than it is. But these aren't major issues, certainly not enough to prevent Limitless from being a splashy, gripping ride.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com. His fiction is available on Kindle through Amazon.