I’ll start off by saying that Limitless (directed by Neil Burger, based upon the novel by Alan Glynn) exceeded my expectations. While I’ve enjoyed actor Bradley Cooper’s work before, trailers for Limitless suggested it was another meaningless run-of-the-mill action film about an attractive white man on a quest for fame and fortune. I was expecting poor writing, a predictable plot, and an abundance of special effects clamoring to distract from an otherwise lackluster production. On the contrary, while Limitless wont be winning any Academy Awards next year, it did have merit.
Limitless can be understood as a manifestation of society’s current concern surrounding the abuse of prescription medication. “NZT” – the fictitious pharmaceutical that plays a crucial role in Limitless – can be seen as a metaphor for drugs like Ritalin or Adderall that are designed to maximize the user’s concentration and productive abilities. Much like students who use these drugs as study aids, Cooper’s character abuses NZT without considering the physical or legal consequences, which of course catch up to him during the course of the film. On a broader scope Limitless is a critique of society as a whole: through strategically expressed dialogue it attacks the lazy, drug dependent, shortcut-prone culture we have become.
However, while Limitless had clever writing and delivered an unexpected number of laughs, it had a few gaping plot holes that detracted from the overall experience. For example, if NZT was supposed to make Cooper more intelligent than the most gifted genius then why was he unable to recognize his own folly in overusing a drug he had a limited supply of? How come he didn’t take his own advice (that “overreaching” leads to failure) and settle for more modest ambitions? Other elements of the plot seemed clumsily dealt with, which I would attribute to the complications of adapting a book into a screenplay; the last five minutes of the film felt especially rushed and incongruous.
Overall it was an enjoyable film, but not extraordinary.