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.