Limitless is a 2011 thriller directed by Neil Burger, staring Bradley Cooper, and based on the book The Dark Fields. The movie opens with a man standing on ledge several stories up at night with what we have to assume are very bad people trying to break into his penthouse. In what may be his final moments he considers how he got to this point. Jobless wannabe writer Eddy Morra is spending his days staring at his word processor and drinking. His one source of income, his girl friend, has recently left him because he's a loser and things are generally looking pretty bleak for Eddy until a chance meeting with his slightly criminal ex-brother-in-law, Vernon. They go to a bar and discuss Eddy's ex-wife who's stuck raising two kids (not Eddy's) alone before moving on to the subject of Vernon's current gig.Vernon claims that he quit dealing and is now working for a pharmaceutical company that created a new miracle drug which let's people access their full brain power. He offer's Eddy a single pill which Eddy attempts to refuse only to have Vernon walk away leaving it on the table. Eddy grabs the pill and ponders the the smoldering car wreck that is his life on the walk home. Having rationalized that it can't make things worse he downs the pill. On the way up the stairs he meets his landlords young wife who starts bitching him out for being behind on the rent. And then it hits him, time slows a bit, the color filter goes from a dingy, washed out, blue-green filter of broken dreams and mild depression to bright and happy yellow, and Eddy's mind effortlessly concludes that the tirade that he being subjected to actually has nothing to do with him. After several Sherlock level deductions about her and the college paper he correctly guesses she's writing he's able to provide a surprising amount of insight on interesting directions she could take it. Then they shag. Yeah, he's that sort of a creep.
Getting back to his apartment Eddy is horrified at the messy state it's in. He begins a much needed cleaning shown as several Eddies acting at the same time to clean his domicile which is visually interesting as well as reminding us that he's experiencing time and action a bit differently. Finishing that, he wonder what this drug is doing to him. His mind feels clear for the first time in his life. Having nothing more pressing he begins writing that novel that he's been meaning to start for the last couple of months. The next day the dingy filter is back and the brilliance is gone. But he has the first half of a novel. He hands it off to an incredulous editor and she's left three messages on his answering machine before he's finish walking home. Cha-ching. Now all he needs is to finish the second half ... time to visit Vern. He arrives at Vernon's apartment to discover Vernon has some nasty looking brruises on his face. They get talking and Vern admits he's not working for a Pharmaceutical company and that the drug, NZT, hasn't exactly been cleared by the FDA. Disconcerting, but who cares? Not Eddy. Vern asks him to go down to the dry cleaners and maybe grab breakfast which he does because HE NEEDS HIS FIX! A suit and some McmuffinsTM later and Eddy returns to find Vern murdered the whole apartment overturned. He calls the police like any normal person would and begins desperately searching for the pills like an addict. In a moment of insight regarding Vern's lack of cooking skills he fines the pill and a wad of cash in oven right before the police arrive. After giving his statement to the police he gets out.
With months worth of NZT Eddy finish his novel in four days, learns to play the piano, becomes a card shark, begins learning new languages, etcetera. With limitless comprehension, eidetic memory, and a massive infusion of motivation he begins making new, rich friends and hanging around the cool people. He realizes that he really, really wants to be rich and begins investing in stocks. He makes money but it's too slow and he needs more capital. Since his credit is probably lower than challenger deep he does a very Eddy thing and get a loan of one hundred thousand dollar from some criminal with a Russian accent who promises to suffocate him with his own skin if he doesn't pay it back. In a few weeks of trading while taking double doses he has two million dollars. Job offers pour in and Eddy manages to get a date with his ex-girlfriend. They get back together and everything is peachy ... well until Eddy's super awareness tells him he's under surveillance and he begins losing time. Following the biggest meeting of his life to decide whether he gets a job with one of the biggest financial institution on the planet he takes a walk and spends the next eighteen hours wandering around is a dissociated daze punctuated by brief moments of lucidity. He goes to parties, bars, fights random guys in the subway, and wakes up on a bridge with no idea how he got there. When he gets back to his crappy apartment he discovers that his NZT has run out. Apparently it didn't actually occur to him that he was going to run out. That's roughly the first half of the movie. If you want to know how Eddy's story ends I would strongly suggest watching the movie or just going to that other site.
It really bothers me that this movie didn't become a minor classic because it's good, really good. Visual metaphors of color filter, words raining down when Eddy writes, the shots of zooming through complex still images that continue to resolve in yet more images like a fractal expressing the shear volume of information perceivable under NZT's effect, all of this gives the effect that the pill has a clear sensory element. Combine it with a strong cast of good actors in a dynamic plot and a great sound track and you have a really good movie. I don't have any real complaints but some people might object to Eddy as the protagonist. He might qualify for roguish on NZT but off it he's a typical sleaze bag who's entire story arc is fulled by luck and magic drugs. I honestly think that's a strength because his lack of heroic qualities mean that the writers aren't morally obligated to give him a good ending and this in turn ratchets up the tension.
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