Limitless is a brilliant piece of science fiction that works off the premise that human use of the brain is limited.
The theory says we use 20 percent and cannot access the other 80 percent.
The film opens close to the climax with Eddie Morra about to step off a multi-story building to his death. Then comes the flashback. Bradley Cooper is Morra, an author with writer’s block. That’s what he says. In reality Eddie is a loser with no ambition and no real desire to do anything. Then, his ex-brother-in-law gives him “the” drug.
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MDT-48 unlocks the brain block and makes the brain work 100 percent. That’s when Eddie’s life gets complicated. The ex-brother-in-law is then murdered by a group that wants the drug’s secret. Eddie discovers the body and — even better — finds his stash.
Now only Eddie has the drug.
The ability to use the entire brain gives Eddie an awareness and clarity he has never known. The drug lets its user access information that is somehow blocked for the rest of us. He can instantly analyze information in ways mere mortals cannot. Everything makes perfect sense all the time.
Eddie has also made powerful enemies. Balancing the drive to become a financial tycoon, stave off those wanting to kill him and master the drug’s dangerous side-effects is complicated.
So is Limitless.
Give Cooper (The Hangover) and co-stars that include Robert De Niro, credit. Their work is solid and sell the premise. The film’s real stars — however — are director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) and writer Leslie Dixon (Hairspray).
All through the movie — even when nothing is happening — there is a low-level intensity; an inexplicable tension and sense that at any moment disaster is going to strike. You know good things are not going to happen for Eddie. Burger dangles you here, strands you there, and twists and turns the plot. Just when you think you have it all figured out, a new twist is added.
Then another, and another.
Burger’s wizardry with the camera further sells the concept. The camera work is dizzying as are Burger’s on-the-drug montages. He packs Limitless with eye-popping effects and stunning visuals.
The cinematography alone makes the film a must-see.
This may seem like a spoiler, but it really isn’t. You quickly discern Morra’s ultimate dilemma. Movie audiences generally prefer plots that are neatly tied up. It’s always good when a writer and a director choose a different path.
Limitless has an unlimited conclusion. You get to decide from a number of possibilities what really happens and how, or if Cooper’s Morra really fixes what seems unfixable.
It’s another nice twist in a film full of them.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It opens Friday, March 18 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.