Would you want to be Limitless?

Limitless (2011)
Dir: Neil Burger
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Abbie Cornish and Tomas Arana

There are some cinematography “stunts” in this film that had a dizzying effect on me.  Let me try and explain what I mean – and keep in mind that I watched this title in the comfort of my teeny-tiny apartment on a TV screen the size of a postage stamp.  OK, perhaps it’s not that small, but I’m trying to decide what kind of teley to get to replace my old one and in the meantime, I’m watching stuff on a 20 inch monitor – not ideal, I know.

The cinematography “stunt” I refer to had the effect of an endless hallway: there are numerous shots of downtown New York streets, but it’s as if we’re zooming down them at high speed – and they just keep coming and coming at us.  Through a most effective mix of photography and editing, the shots literally make you feel what Bradley Cooper’s character, Eddie Morra feels – as if he can digest any amount of data, literature, new languages… he is “limitless” in his abilities.

How so is he “limitless”, you ask?  Glad you did!  Turns out Morra is kind of a knucklehead, wannabe writer.  He’s like a lot of guys in movies of late in that he can barely pay the rent, he’s unshaven and long haired, he mooches off his girlfriend for meals and money and then is shocked – positively shocked – when she breaks up with him!  Bottom line is Morra is a bit of a loser… that is until he runs into an old brother of his ex-girlfriend’s named Vernon.  He has this super-duper-pick-you-up pill that he offers Morra.  Well, upon digesting the pill, Morra turns into super man.  He cleans his apartment.  He shaves.  He has all the motivation and intelligence needed to finally finish that novel and deliver it to his publisher.  He buys new clothes and redesigns himself.  All of this takes place in a pretty entertaining montage to end “act 1”.

From here, however, trouble starts to brew.  He gets a little greedy and starts to play the stock market and play if very well, which gets the attention of a Warren Buffet sized executive played by Robert DeNiro.  With Morra’s work due to DeNiro, his party boy lifestyle that keeps him up till dawn, his continual dealings with a rough gangster and his reliance on the pills, there is plenty of action to keep Morra busy throughout act 2.  There is even a character that seems to be following him (see Final Note, below).

The neat element to Limitless is that its set up is so engaging that you’re definitely enjoying the ride through the end of the film. I’ve referred to “log lines” in other posts, and I think that this film has a great one: if there was a pill that allowed you to finish all those things on your list, lose the weight, ask the girl out… would you take it?  It’s such a relatable question that was executed very well in an action packed 90 minute film – and even tacked on an ending I didn’t see coming.

Final Note: Concerning the character actor Tomas Arana, who is credited as The Man in the Tan Coat,  readers of my blog know that I’m a big fan of those actors who you recognize, but you can’t remember for the life of you where from.  Tomas is one of those guys.

You’d remember him if I mentioned Gladiator, in which he played one of the Roman advisers.  Or maybe you’d remember him as one of the tough guys from L.A. Confidential that Capt. Dudley Smith uses to “discourage” out of town criminals?  Regardless, in Limitless, Arana plays that creepy kind of pursuer who heightens the tension and the action as the story unfolds – Hitchcock uses characters like The Man in the Tan Coat a lot, as do some more modern movies like Knowing.  We’re not really sure what he’s after, but he looks (no disrespect to Mr. Arana) threatening, like he’d be OK with our sudden departure from this Earth…

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One Response to Would you want to be Limitless?

  1. The Ham says:

    I also enjoyed the special effects you’re referring to, but felt they were too long and thus overused when used again later in the film (my eyes were killing me!). Bradley Cooper was well-cast, looking like both a normal guy and then a bit crazed – a pretty physical role. Altogether an entertaining and thought-provoking watch, however!

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