ENGLISH , 2011


The under-recognized genre of the ‘Idea’ movie – with stories exhilaratingly propelled by an idea well beyond the pale of normal life – is a tricky dame. The body is great, but the climax is often under the danger of flagging.  “Limitless” flies off the balcony with its glider then sprouting to anchor the climb -  a woebegone writer in New York gets a pill that amplifies his brain function. He can think ten times better and starts becoming the master of the universe. He kills the stock market, resurrects his novel, rekindles his ex-flame, people hover over this genius, a billionaire gets hooked by his vaulting mind – and Bob’s your brainiac uncle. Pleasant side-effect or rather the major side effect : the denouement’s cool too. Unlike “The Matrix” – another ‘idea’ movie - however, Limitless’s high production values do not incorporate a sense of aesthetics that distinguish art from a mere idea – otherwise this picture could have been even better.

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra – the struggling writer who then gets the empyrean lift. I’ve seen Cooper in 2018’s “ A Star Is Born “ which has far more potential for introspective acting – but there too, as in this picture, he does not have the knack for the kind of acting that hooks audience empathy. He is, however, quite adequate for the role of the buffeted hero. The movie’s parents seem to have sensed this beforehand, which might explain why they brought Robert De Niro in. De Niro embodies Carl Van Loon – a business tycoon who gets wind of this young hot-shot who’s searing NY’s finance village. De Niro is terrific in his very first shot as the no-nonsense formidable overlord who brusquely engages the young turk. His guarded complex visage does not kow-tow to Eddie like how the others do – he just cuts to the chase of how they both can make more money together. Instantly, one senses his ferocious intelligence, and the direct edge to suffer no fools. In a later sequence, De Niro takes the Wall Street Black Forest Gateau and slams it in Eddie’s face when he directly tells him why he has not made the climb the hard way that Van Loon has, that he has not yet engaged people, staff and rivals the way other players have, all leading up to why he should therefore not hold Van Loon as his competitor. I won’t say – Bradley, Look and Learn – Cooper perhaps does not need to, as he’s secure in his own planet.

Director Neil Burger and Editors Tracy Adams and Naomi Geraghty do a terrific job of stitching the film seamlessly in a whirlwind of narrative elan. There are no weak moments in this 105 minute rocket, which owes equally if not more to the wall-to-wall material amply provided by Alan Glynn’s novel, that has been tweaked for the screen by Leslie Dixon. The hero runs out of his fix, his giddy meetings with superiors suddenly run out of steam, resources have to be urgently marshalled to find more pills, villains sprout to flay him, his multi-language abilities make sly enviable cameos, a Matrix-like action inspiration takes limb in the subway station, and he ultimately has to decide whether or not to sport Vampire-like desire to remain alive – the story-telling callisthenics never stop.

In the epilogue, Eddie, like the innate good boy he is, has decided to pursue the most noble of professions. America should weep with joy – they could not get Bernard Sanders, but fear not. Eddie Morra will figure out how to get single payer healthcare for all of America. That might mean saving the life of emerging not-yet-recognized versions of Tucker Carlson and Mitch McConnell who might otherwise have died by not being able to afford expensive healthcare. But fear not, Eddie Morra will fix those philosophical morasses too. What a great sequel it would have been – with all the attendant minutiae and grand problems sorted, and the brooding, and existential dilemmas. A dollop of the ‘aesthetics’ I was talking about might be inserted too. I don’t mind Avengers Part 10 ( The Revenge of Loki’s Grand-Daughter) , but ten years after ‘Limitless’, the far juicier possible sequel-peach which the audience and producers could have gleefully sunk their teeth into, has still not fruited.




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