Friday, 1 April 2011

Film Review: Limitless

We all know the age old adage that human beings 'only use 10% of their brain', and many take this to be some sort of established fact based on irrefutable science. It is a myth, and one that persists through the erudition of the popular culture we are exposed to. In a way, it is a somewhat comforting thought, in that it undoubtedly motivates people to strive for greater creativity and productivity in their lives. Indeed, the encouragement and hope this myth offers helps to explain its perpetuation in the cultural zeitgeist. However, like so many uplifting folk tales which appear too good to be true, the actual truth of the matter seems to be the least important aspect.

And so we have a film that is based around this very fable. What would happen if, taking this so called 'axiom' to be true, there was a way to access the remaining 90% of our brain? Limitless offers one take on the realising of maximum human potential. When struggling writer Eddie Morra (Cooper) is offered an experimental see-through pill which bestows him with superhuman abilities, he finds himself able to view the world with total transparency. When, through extraneous circumstances he is able to get his hands on an indefinite supply, he makes an overnight transformation from zero to hero.

The question is, what would you do with all this unlimited brain power? Sure, there's a lot to be said for using your new found intelligence to become rich beyond your wildest imagination, but it's hardly the most enthralling concept for a movie. Limitless is essentially about a man who takes a magic pill and then plays the stock market. Boom. Yes, there is drama and suspense when, attracted by his sudden ascension to the top of the social stratosphere, shady figures resembling Niko Bellic and John Malkovich begin hunting Eddie, but it really doesn't detract from the central realisation of the concept - get rich. Limitless promises much with its daft, yet admittedly fun premise and while it is slow to start, there are parts where you start to feel it might be going somewhere. However, like the pill, no sooner than you feel the rush do you start to feel the come down as the film descends into meandering pointlessness.

While Cooper's character is charming and likeable, it is still difficult to garner whether he's cut out for a main role. There's definitely something that doesn't quite fit with him being leading man material, but then that might be because you'll find him more often playing roles which rely on group dynamics, such as in The Hangover or the A-Team. Thankfully however, Robert De Niro seems to be back on form as Eddie's billionaire mentor, Carl Van Loom. It is always nice to see an actor effortlessly enjoying the material, especially one as great as De Niro having fallen so far from grace in a string of shitty movies of late. You'll also never see Anna Friel look so bad. *shudders*.

Limitless is an interesting concept, and overall a reasonably solid and entertaining effort. Unfortunately it stutters in too many places and perhaps doesn't deal with the material as well as it should. The ending is particularly weak and there are so many gaps (explained by the drug's handy side-effect of causing blackouts) that we're just left to assume things - particularly an unsolved murder sub-plot merely brushed under the rug. Consequently, Limitless' potential capacity for greatness is never fully realised and thus, unfortunately, remains limited.