STARRING: Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth, Robert John Burke, Patricia Kalember, Tomas Arana, T.V. Carpio, Jennifer Butler, Andrew Howard, Eddie J. Fernandez, Ann Marie Seal

2011, 105 Minutes, Directed by:
Neil Burger

Is Limitless a science fiction movie?

This is a legitimate question. On the surface it appears to be so: a slacker copywriter played by Bradley Cooper (Face in the A-Team remake and the now defunct Alias TV show) starts using a new experimental drug that makes him use that underutilized 90% of his brain.

(It is considered to be a truism that humans only use 10% of their brain, a “fact” ascribed to Albert Einstein and endorsed by those Scientology leaflets which want you to part with your money. It is however a myth, read here.)

The drug gives Cooper’s character almost superhuman abilities. Imagine if you can somehow clearly recall each piece of information you have ever ingested throughout your entire existence, including even those Bruce Lee movies that subliminally taught you how to fight and ward off muggers. As you might think this gives him an unfair advantage and Cooper soon becomes involved in the world of high finance.

The experimental drug is certainly a science fiction plot device, but what the movie does with it isn’t exactly sci-fi. Instead it repeats several drug movie clichés: the hapless junkie getting involved with the wrong criminal crowd, our hero finding he has to cope without the drugs, etc.

Several plot strands the movie picks up never gets resolved or muddled over: so who did murder that woman in the hotel room? Who made the drug to begin with and why aren’t they flooding our pharmacies or back streets with them (nasty after effects aside)? Like 1978’s The Fury or 1981’s Scanners one can almost imagine a clandestine war between super-powered individuals vying for dominance.

None of this actually happens, which leaves the question whether Limitless is in fact a science fiction movie.

That aside, there is much to recommend Limitless. The screenplay is inventive and clever (we watched it as a double bill with the brain-dead Nicolas Cage actioner Drive Angry – guess which one we preferred?) and acting is decent too. Illusionist-director Neil Burger pulls out every audiovisual trick from his sleeve in an attempt to prevent the somewhat talky movie from becoming dull. Luckily all the flashy cinematography and editing never becomes distracting and Limitless is one of the year’s more pleasant surprises.

Worth checking out even if the sci-fi geek in you were secretly hoping for a super-powered muties vs. norms battle royale . . .



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