- the cinematic musings of a self-certified geek


Limitless - Dir. Neil Burger, USA, 105mins, 2011

Black Swan

Copyright MainstreamMatt/Mainstream 2005-2011

The intrigue with Limitless is three fold; Bradley Cooper is finally given a lead role with which to cement his burgeoning Hollywood star (the less said about The A-Team, the better). The appearance of Robert DeNiro will always register on the radar, these days sadly only to see how far he’s fallen from Raging Bull to Rocky & Bullwinkle. And finally there is the trending theme of manipulated reality, prevalent in Inception, The Adjustment Bureau, and the eagerly anticipated Source Code; the idea of altering fate has captured the cinemagoers imagination. So why did this test my limits as a viewer?


Cooper is Eddie Mora, a struggling writer living on his publishing advance, despite having not written a single sentence, dumped by his long-time girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) who is at the end of her tether with his career procrastination.


It’s a chance meeting with an ex-girlfriends’ (Anna Friel) drug dealing brother which triggers the life changing opportunity to sample NTZ; a clear, supposedly FDA approved pill which allows the taker to utilise the usually dormant part of their brain, unlocking their true potential to think and act in a way which benefits every aspect of their life.


So Eddie finishes his book in 4 days, learns multiple languages, seduces multiple women, and gets a dream job at a large firm run by Robert DeNiro’s powerful businessman. But as with all Faustian pacts there are severe consequences, both medical, and in the form of Russian gangsters and the NYPD.


There is no denying the large element of fun to be had with the movie, most of it thanks to Bradley Cooper’s infectious charm, which has been evident since his days on the JJ Abrams spy-show, Alias. His character isn’t entirely likeable due to some ridiculously selfish and unbelievable narrative choices, but it’s down to him that you stick with Eddie’s evolving predicament right up until the oh so stupid ending.


For a movie based on the notion of becoming increasingly clever, it’s ironic that the movie gets sillier and sillier. Plot holes gape and are never fully resolved – Eddie’s involvement in a murder is left unanswered – and the trail of destruction that he leaves is dismissed through one sentence voiceover solutions that belie the fact that he’s meant to be smart. It’s a twisty turny structure that you forgive up to a point.


DeNiro is fine, although he doesn’t quite intimidate in a way that would have increased the tension to benefit the story. Cornish and Friel are fleetingly fine; the former of whom even gets her own action sequence that falls into the “see it to believe it” category, and ends with the use of a child as a weapon.


As an average episode of The X-Files this would have been fine, as a feature film it survives solely on the enthusiasm of its leading man, and doesn’t even come close to fulfilling its own potential.