• Review: Limitless

    From Roger Bell_West's autoposter@21:1/5 to All on Sat Jan 28 11:54:01 2017
    2011 science fiction, dir. Neil Burger, Bradley Cooper, Robert de
    Niro: [IMDb](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1219289/) / [allmovie](http://www.allmovie.com/movie/limitless-v448758)

    Eddie Morra is a struggling writer, until his ex-brother-in-law offers
    him a new drug that makes him smarter.

    Yes, this does rest on the tired old "you only use 20% of the
    brain" myth. But it wouldn't be so very different if it used one of
    the mechanisms proposed for real nootropics: Eddie doesn't get
    superpowers, he just thinks faster and with better recall. And in fact
    this is at last a legitimate use for the blue/orange tinting that's so prevalent in modern film: blue tint is normal Eddie, orange tint is
    boosted Eddie.

    Other visual effects abound: the shortening of focal length to
    represent a wider field of vision is perhaps a little heavy-handed,
    and an "infinite zoom" through a series of locations doesn't really
    add much although it's pretty, but a ceiling that turns into a
    split-flap display board does usefully suggest a new way of looking at
    the world.

    Plotting is less effective: having decided to talk about the world's
    most intelligent person, the script doesn't really know what to do
    with him. He decides that to achieve anything significant (not least a continued supply of the drug, after the ex-brother-in-law is murdered)
    he'll need money; fair enough. He can't get it from a bank, so he goes
    to a loan shark. But he says right then: he's quintupled his money
    four days in a row. Starting with the $800 he had, a mere three days
    of that would be enough to get him the $100,000 he claims to need. And
    once he's got the money, he apparently _forgets_ to pay back the loan
    shark, something he ought to be able to do effortlessly after only a
    day or two of trading at most, even though he's spending all his time
    boosted and with perfect recall. This just doesn't work, any more than retaining a fat wad of cash and pills after being taken for
    questioning from a murder scene would work.

    (And this isn't a Hollywood addition to bring in some action; in the
    novel on which this was based, _The Dark Fields_ by Alan Glynn, it's
    one of the main elements of the plot. Another, which is dropped here
    without resolution, is whether Eddie did in fact kill the woman he
    dimly remembers having had sex with during a fugue state. I don't
    think I'm going to read the book.)

    The more interesting part to me is what Eddie _does_ with his new
    mind, which turns out to be "run for Senator". That's not the answer
    I'd come up with: more like, make enough money to buy some serious
    privacy, and then (being the smartest guy in the world and therefore
    the person with the best chance of success) work all-out at
    replicating the drug and dealing with the side effects. Once that's
    assured, start making the world a better place, both with technical
    solutions for things like cheap water purification and by bribing
    politicians with the drug (giving them a version that makes them a bit
    smarter than everyone else, but not as smart as me). That's a story
    I'd have preferred to see, about how humanity changes when it can
    think better, and I've thought that up in a few minutes while writing
    this review, not in however many months it too to write the

    Eddie never does find out where the drug originally came from, and
    while some other people turn out to have had access to it, their
    supply has dried up too. This isn't that sort of story; it's more
    about what sort of person one becomes when one is landed with huge
    powers. The trick is that almost anyone vaguely good would be a better
    person if they suddenly got smarter and could do more about it; why
    not give the drug to someone who's really smart already? What is meant
    to make Eddie the hero of this story is that he's a _really good
    person_ already; and Bradley Cooper _just about_ pulls it off. (And I
    have a low tolerance for "manchild slacker makes good" as a concept,
    so he has to be a pretty good actor to make that work for me.)

    The only other actor with a major role is de Niro, who can of course
    do "vaguely sinister tycoon" in his sleep, but never really inspires.
    Abbie Cornish has a very small part as Eddie's girlfriend, who leaves
    him in the opening scene, comes back when he sorts his life out a bit,
    and has one really good scene when she has to take the drug herself to
    escape from a hit-man.

    In the end: eh, well, it's OK. But it did inspire a TV series that was
    rather better.


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