Limitless (2011 dir. Neil Burger) — Movie Review
High concept films are a tough bugger to market.
By reducing an entire movie to a one-sentence description you make the concept easily understandable at a glance—a necessity in today’s over marketed landscape.
On the other hand, reducing a movie to a one-sentence description has the indirect effect of making a movie sound plain dumb.
An imprisoned cannibal helping an FBI agent track down a serial killer removes any hint of the subtle psychological interplay that made Silence of the Lambs the great film it was.
So when I saw the trailer for Limitless, a story about a man that takes a pill that makes him super-smart, I was weary about just how long a concept like that could sustain itself for more than 30 minutes.
There is, however, something of The Twilight Zone about the concept that did appeal to me and so I decided to take a chance.
And I’m glad I did.
Limitless wastes no time in setting up its core concept: a down and out writer is presented with a pill that makes him super smart. In no time at all he completes his novel and is making mass strides in his personal and professional life. As his dependency on the drug grows in the face of a dwindling and finite supply, we are presented with the consequences and dangers of striving to have it all.
The direction is superb: when Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is on the drug, the world around him is lit with bright golden colours and when he’s off it, the colours on screen are dark and subdued – reminding us that our view of the world is determined by the quality of our thoughts or lack thereof.
Cooper himself gives a performance that holds the movie. He makes the jump between the down-and-out and the confident personas seem authentic, which helps suspend your disbelief.
At 105 minutes the film zips along at a heady pace to keep you constantly engaged. Whereas other films may have plodded along with unnecessary explanations or exposition, Limitless is focused on exploring the landscape of its concept quickly and deftly.
The film isn’t without flaws: some plot strands are set-up but never fully paid off or delivered as having lasting effects on the central character, although whether this is intentional as the character’s mind moves fast is debatable.
Look out for Limitless on DVD.