Limitless

Also known as: Limitless…(Plot Holes)

Limitless is a fun (albeit dumb and afflicted by attention deficit disorder) movie to see in the theatres. Of the last four or five movies I’ve seen in the theatre, this one has been the most memorable, and entertaining.

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a down-on-his-luck writer who has just lost his girlfriend and has (what else?) writer’s block. He spends his days drinking at local pubs, avoiding his landlord’s wife, and promising his editor that the book will be done on time. When he’s just about to hit rock bottom, he has a chance encounter with his ex brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), an unscrupulous businessman with dubious connections. During their meeting, he gives Eddie a sample of a prototype drug known as “NZT” which allows anyone who takes it to access “100% of their brain.” While initially reluctant at first (it is a prototype drug after all), Eddie decides that he has nothing to lose and pops the pill. His life is turned upside down, with Russian gangsters, a murder, a billion dollar business deal, and a dwindling supply of NZT pushing the story forward.

A pill that makes a person a genius is an interesting concept. It’s a perfect question to explore within a dinner party conversation (Would you take the “genius pill” if you could?) that leads to more interesting discussions that the movie doesn’t explore (If everyone took NZT, what happens to the concept of intelligence and success? Who would wash the dishes and scrub the floors?).

Instead, the rules of NZT as laid out in the film are relatively straightforward and at the same time maddeningly obscure. Essentially, part one is: you take NZT and you can do anything. Your potential is essentially “limitless.” Eddie can decode and see things in seconds that would take a normal individual hours, or days, to comprehend. He can finish a novel in three days, write a law school dissertation in a matter of hours (without ever having taking a course), and quadruple his money day-trading on the stock market. His intelligence is so vast that his powers are akin to clairvoyance (he predicts a car crash before it happens at the end of the movie). The second rule of NZT is: if you stop taking it, you’ll die (unless you reduce your dosage, like Eddie’s ex-wife did. Then your brain just doesn’t work properly anymore).

The only issue with the film is that it runs into some logical inconsistencies and plot holes because of the unlimited potential of NZT. There’s one point in a climactic scene where Eddie isn’t on NZT and a bad guy is. Eddie’s about to be tortured (and killed) unless he can figure out how to outsmart the bad guy. Obviously, this is a scenario that Eddie (as a normal guy) cannot win against his captor, who is NZT powered. The central rule of the movie is that taking NZT makes a person smarter than anyone else. Why would you write a scene that refutes that only rule? It’s maddening.

Of course, writing a movie about a wonder pill is bound to run into problems. First off, there has to be a consequence to taking the pill, which means that our hero has to learn about the other characters who have taken it and suffered the side-effects. But having other characters who have taken NZT means that they could’ve possibly fixed the life-threatening issues of the drug before Eddie Morra even had a taste. Also, even though the characters on NZT are supposed to be intellectual wunderkinds they make idiotic choices that even a normal human being would try to avoid (hint: pay back your local Russian mobster).

Despite all of these complaints, Limitless is enjoyable. There’s something tremendously appealing about a pill that can unlock your potential and provide you with the means towards becoming the perfect version of yourself (i.e. speak thirty languages fluently, play every instrument known to man, and know how to do everything). It’s a great piece of escapism. Limitless also has Robert De Niro playing a solid role that takes him away from the infantile comedy of the Meet the Parents franchise and reminds everyone in the audience that he is one of the greatest actors in the world (by casting him as one of the greatest businessman in the world – the reverence co-stars show in scenes with De Niro is effortless. None of them are acting).

Limitless is an hour and half of dumb fun. Ironically, the only thing that would impede your enjoyment of the film is actually thinking about it.

Grade: B-

Thinking Man’s Grade: C+

 

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