This past week I finally caught up with Bradley Cooper‘s latest film, Limitless.
The concept is one that’s been touched on before but not quite to this degree. Cooper’s character, Eddie Morra, is a rather typical, average guy, depressed and just sliding along in life. He’s a mess. He tells everyone he’s got a book deal and as hard at work on his great novel but, of course, hasn’t written a word. He’s been out of work for ages, looks a mess and his girlfriend is pretty much at her breaking point waiting for him to snap out of it.
Then comes MDT. An old brother-in-law offers Eddie the chance to break out using this new, experimental drug (but FDA-approved he’s told) Eddie will be able to access the potential of his entire brain and not just the small percentage it’s rumored we all use. After some initial hesitation Eddie decides he’s got nothing to lose.
Suddenly the world comes alive. Everything is easy. He can learn languages just by hearing them spoken. He can fight as well as anyone as now he can recall every detail of every fight movie, boxing match and Kung Fu sequence he’s ever been exposed to. It’s as if the Internet has suddenly connected with his brain directly to give him instant access to everything he’s ever even remotely come in contact with.
Incredible possibilities open up to him—financial gains, sexual conquests, clarity of self (hygiene, exercise, etc.) and so forth. It all happens quickly but then reality sets in. The drug has major side effects and it’s also in short supply. How can Eddie go back to being the old, meandering, direction-less Eddie—that is if he even survives to get that far?
The film starts off with a bang including some excellent visual effects that help convey the degree to which Eddie’s abilities are expanding. There’s also a perfectly matched soundtrack to go along with it. The story keeps this wonderment going through then entire first half and then Robert De Niro‘s character comes into the picture.
There’s nothing wrong with De Niro’s work here, of course, but somehow his entrance ushers in a complete energy drain on the film. It suddenly notches down several gears and the wonderment element dissipates like fog on a warming morning.
This rather compelling intellectual exercise is now transformed into the transverse of the story line. We get the dumbed-down plot elements of poorly conceived bad guys, car chases and the like. Almost none of it is up to the level of the potential of the first half of the film.
When the ending comes it’s just as unsatisfying. Not only is it unsatisfying but it’s also far too brief. In the end you leave feeling like you could have seen a truly mesmerizing film but instead just paid to be teased but what could have and should have been.