Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, explores what we would do if we could use one hundred percent of our brain all of the time. Though it is a myth that we only use ten percent of our brain, it is true we are not exercising all processes every at every moment. Limitless asks what we would do if could. Aspiring writer (Cooper) Eddie Morra gets the chance to find out. Morra is down on his luck. He is suffering from writer’s block, his girlfriend dumps him, and he can’t pay his rent. He is so unmotivated he can barely muster the energy to comb his hair. Then a chance encounter with his ex-brother-in-law changes all that. The brother-in-law gives him a new and highly experimental drug called NZT. Feeling he has nothing better to do, and nothing to lose, Morra takes the pill.
Limitless is a kind of modern-day take on the science fiction classic Flowers for Algernon. Morra is not mentally challenged like Algernon’s Charlie, but his extreme apathy and lack of motivation holds him back from life. It’s an interesting contrast. Charlie could not help his condition and was constantly trying to learn all he could despite his limitations. His surgically enhanced intelligence was involuntary. Morra, on the other hand is perfectly capable of accomplishing whatever he wants; he just chooses not to try. Instead he pops a pill. It’s a reflection on fast-paced modern-day life where instant gratification is the only thing that motivates Morra to do anything. Also unlike Charlie, when Morra’s super intelligence begins to wear off he can just pop another pill and off he goes.
While all of this is a good premise, what Morra does with his expanded brain power is a bit disappointing. Yes, he finishes his book, but then he moves on to investing. It’s not the most exciting career choice, but there are some nasty dealings with the Russian mob to liven things up. The most interesting parts of Limitless are when Morra is transitioning from deadbeat to Renaissance man. He learns new languages in the blink of an eye, beds a lot of women, and shows up everyone around him with his newfound wit. But by the time he meets up with business mogul Carl Van Loon, played by Robert DeNiro who sleepwalks through his part, the story gets all caught up in plot and loses the character. Van Loon wants Morra to help him broker the biggest business merger ever, while in the meantime Morra is trying to stay one step ahead of the Russians.
At the same time it turns out there is a dark side to NZT, but Morra is so addicted he will do anything to get it. Inexplicably his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish), who had broken up with him at the beginning of the movie, comes back to him and is soon caught up in his crazy lifestyle. The problem with Limitless is though it has the elements of a good thriller it doesn’t have the heart. I liked Morra when he was an aspiring writer who was fed up with his life, but I didn’t like him post-NZT. Unfortunately because the film gets so caught up in resolving the plot there is no examination of the moral issues at stake with altering one’s own mind. The drug “cured” Morra of his shyness. The introvert became the extrovert and he didn’t want to write anymore. In essence he completely lost himself, but he never really seems to care.
I was left with mixed feelings overall. The premise is interesting and Bradley Cooper handles his ever-changing character quite convincingly. I like way the enhanced intelligence is conveyed visually. When one of the NZT pills kicks in, the color brightens a little to reflect what is happening in his mind. When Morra is thinking letters and numbers fill the air above to simulate the vast of amount of information his mind his processing. The beginning of the film is filled with clever and funny dialogue, which really draws the audience in to the character. Limitless doesn’t quite live up to the momentum it creates in the beginning when it gets bogged down by one plot device after another. Overall it’s a very entertaining movie that leaves you feeling empty when it’s over.
The Blu-ray is presented with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. Visually it looks very good. The contrast between the muted colors of Morra’s pre-NZT life and the brightness of his enhanced one really stands out on Blu-ray. The detail is excellent and the image is sharp and clear. The colors come across so vividly, Cooper’s bluest of blue eyes are almost a distraction. The sound is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The surrounds are used to their fullest extent with even bits of dialogue bouncing between them to help create the disoriented feeling the character is experiencing. The dialogue is crisp and the background city noise creates an immersive experience. The special features are fairly standard with an EPK, a short making of featurette, an alternate ending, the theatrical trailer, and audio commentary from director Neil Burger.