Limitless (dir. Neil Burger, 2011) – A struggling author finds his muse in NZT, an experimental drug that invokes all of his potential intelligence.
Style over substance, Limitless squanders narrative potential in hopes that its audience may use less than 10% of their brains.
In Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, a mentally disabled man finds intelligence in science, only to see more than he should. Limitless revisits the classic story as a struggling writer abandons normality for instant intelligence. Success however comes at a price. When others seek the same, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) invites a life of dangerous escape.
His chase after perfection resonates with many. Ambition is universal as most desire to revel in respect, fame and riches. But does intellect truly equate to success? How will a sudden influx of knowledge change us mentally? How far will one go to retain it?
Unlike Algernon, Limitless superficially handles these possible implications. Barely brushing against topics of morality, the movie instead opts for fast-paced action. Perhaps the sci-fi label is a stretch. While science inspires the premise, action takes the forefront.
As a result, we are never short on thrills. Neat editing work sees exhilaration surge along with his intelligence. Non-stop action may pass the time well, but it seldom serves to gain plot. Soon, a weak script begins to show.
In excuses for chase sequences, Eddie oftens puts aside his new-found abilities. Despite starting to remember what he never intends to, he somehow forgets to return money that he owed. We are expected to look past these holes, though our efforts receive little pay-off at the end.
Such mindless entertainment necessitates a less critical audience, who seeks only full-on action to enjoy. There is plenty of fun to be had as well in Bradley Cooper’s multilingual attempts, including his questionable Mandarin at the end. Bonus points for anyone who can transcribe that.