D: Neil Burger. DP: Jo Willems. W: Leslie Dixon. Starring: Bradley Cooper/Abbie Cornish/Robert De Niro/Anna Friel/Johnny Whitworth/Andrew Howard. (NOTE: Based on the novel “The Dark Fields” by Alan Glynn.)
Not much is actually limitless in Relativity’s new feature exploring the powers of medication in the modern age. Whether it’s prescription based or not, any type of drug proves the connundrum of, what do I do when it runs out? This is the basic premise for Limitless, where a fancy smart drug finds itself into new hands.
Bradley Cooper’s Eddie Morra is a struggling writer who can’t get his life on track, keep is girlfriend, or even finish his book he’s already got an advance on. Enter random encounter with his ex-wife’s brother who hands him a pill that spirals him up and down in his journey to take control of his life. And that’s pretty much it. Of course, Cooper does play financial man time with Robert De Niro along the way, but really that has so little to do with his real journey it’s laughable. Also, laughable are the plot holes that arise, for example, the loan shark that Eddie never seems to be able to pay off even though he has the money.
Yet Limitless completely rests on Bradley Cooper’s shoulders as his Eddie is in almost every frame and contributes pages and pages of voice over to the film. Cooper is ample here and looks right at home playing the smoldering playboy with a cracking veneer. Abbie Cornish is fine as his girlfriend, but you will still wonder who she is and why he cares by the end of it as their relationship is never explored at all. Also, thankfully, his voice over is used as a plot device throughout the film and does not just storybook it for the filmmakers convenience. By the end of the film this does get tedious, but audiences will at least leave with a sense that you almost “got” the experience of the drug alongside Eddie. (Of course, everyone will get the shameless attempt to de-handsomefy an actor like Bradley Cooper.)
The lasting effects of the film on any audience will be an influence on their opinion of visual style. The camera swoops and crashes and gives its narrative moments of pure exhilaration as Cooper navigates his enhanced abilities through the drug. His invincibility and eventual confusion from the drug are sometimes, but not consistently enough mirrored in the film’s visual style. One can only wish a little bit more creativity was spun to give this film the edge it needed to overcome its basic premise.