Limitless – Review

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Eddie (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer who’s way behind on his deadline to hand in his book to his editor.

Life is leaving him behind. His unwashed and dishevelled demeanour would render him indistinguishable from the homeless people sleeping in the doorways below his Manhattan apartment – an apartment so dirty and cluttered that most people would rather sleep in the doorways anyway.

This is a man who has wasted the potential life has given him. He’s even about to lose the only thing he has going for him, an undeservedly gorgeous girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish).

But a chance encounter with his ex-wife’s brother Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) sends him in a new direction. Over coffee, Vernon gives him a new tablet he’s selling – all above board, he assures him – that he promises will turn things around for him.

The pill makes him feel alert – suddenly he can recall everything he’s ever seen and heard – he’s buzzing – he’s able to use every last bit of his brain.

In no time at all, his book is ready for his editor. But when the pill wears off, he’s back to normal. He needs more pills.

Turning up at Vernon’s flat to stock up on supplies, he finds Vernon is dead and the place has been ransacked. Someone else knows about these pills and wants them.

Can Eddie find them before anyone else – keep them to himself – stay alive long enough to use them to achieve greatness? Or will obstacles – I don’t know – ruthless businessmen, crooked lawyers, brutal Russian gangsters and the like – get in his way?


Like so many films these days, Limitless begins with a flash-forward to a moment we will relive about an hour and a half later.

Up until that point, this is a thoroughly imaginative and exciting thriller – with some interesting ideas, mostly consistent within its own world and utilising some effective camera tricks.

It also presents us with a universal theme many of us can identify with – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use all of our brain – and what would we do if we could?

But when it catches up with the moment where he is literally – and of course figuratively – teetering on the brink, it collapses into a Hollywood hole of contrived nonsense.

To make things worse, if it’s not bad enough that all logic breaks down, we get far too many false endings. When a film gets to the point where you frown and groan when it fades up again from black, you know it doesn’t know when to quit.

Bradley Cooper is perfectly effective as the protagonist. Robert De Niro makes a suitably creepy money-man, strange as it is to see him take a relatively small supporting role. It’s interesting to see someone as beautiful as Anna Friel making her latest attempt to break into Hollywood, playing a bedraggled addict.

Limitless is a film that doesn’t know its limit.

Initially, it’s entertaining, but silly fun, convincing, exciting, interesting and rewarding.

But it outstays its welcome. Once it gets to the stage where you wish you could take a pill that would stop you using your brain, you know it’s time to leave.