Is it possible to be a genius in an age when anyone can Google anything or ask their very own digital Jeeves? It’s been hundreds of years since famous intellectuals could simultaneously be true experts in fields as varied as mathematics and music, philosophy or physics. Today the depth of knowledge required is just too great. It’s a question of knowing how to look for facts, rather than deducing your own. And yet we are constantly told to reach out for our true potential because biologically at least we are using a fraction of the brain’s thinking power.
Perhaps the miracle of modern medicine can provide an answer to the world’s obvious lack of fearsomely intimidating brainiacs. Limitless is based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn and tells the story of Eddie, played by The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper, a “novelist” with a book contract, a hot girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) and the looks of a beggar, and not much else.
With not a word of his masterpiece written his girlfriend rapidly becomes his
ex. Eddie hits rock bottom and inspiration looks to be about as likely as a
knighthood for Andy Coulson. But then his ex brother in law turns up, out of
the blue, leaving him a pill that utilises every synapse in the brain so it’s
running at 100%. Take the pill and you become a silent superhero, a 21st
century, pharmacy fuelled genius.
I had a hypothesis about Limitless. I’d heard about the concept and it was undeniably cool. I mean what would you do with an enhanced version of yourself that knew no limits? Maybe you’d end world hunger, sort out peace in the Middle East, come up with the next Harry Potter series and have some fun with attractive people you’d usually be too scared to approach along the way.
However this being a Hollywood release it was fairly obvious that Eddie would go crazy and live it up, earning big bucks on Wall Street, squandering his drug pumped intelligence on boring investment dialogue. He’d finish his “grandiose” novel in a montage and be in predictable debts with dodgy Eastern Europeans in the blink of an eye, moaning about it all in a moronic and mostly insufferable voiceover.
In fairness to Limitless the endless possibilities behind the concept are practically impossible to convey. Director Neil Burger does throw in some visual trickery to illustrate the highs of the drug and the panicky amnesia that follows. But the rush of inspiration and satisfaction after finishing a novel doesn’t translate onto film via Cooper’s swagger or a tumble of CGI words falling from the ceiling as he types.
Anyway back to my hypothesis. Essentially I thought that the interesting premise, once squeezed through the demands of modern entertainment, would end up as merely a passably adequate film overall. Stephen Fry, national treasure and king of Twitter, tweeted a while ago that Limitless was silly but
fun. I thought that everyone would reach more or less the same conclusion.
Despite dealing with themes like drug dependency and the potentials of the human character, Limitless skips over meaningful answers in favour of an alright watch.
The only moments that push entertainment levels above the mediocre are ones where the audience are laughing at the film, rather than with it. For example when Eddie’s ex girlfriend is trapped by a pursuing murderer (I won’t waste time mentioning plot holes) and she must take a pill to think her way out of it, she decides to sprint across an ice rink and swing a child into her attacker’s face. Yup, that’s modern genius for you.
Don’t let it be said that at Flickering Myth we do not test our hypotheses with carefully controlled experiments. I invited three lab rats to my home, lulled them into a false sense of normality with popcorn and then issued them with scientifically designed score cards to rate Limitless. Here are the results.
As you can see, Guest 1 thought Limitless was “Ok”…
…as did Guest 2.
Guest 3 decided to try to mess with my system and write some thoughts on the back of her scorecard, hence the scrawled “P.T.O”. She wrote some kind of valid stuff about Limitless being immoral because it doesn’t really show that drugs have bad consequences and it only has a 15 certificate, all of which I decided to leave out of my review. After all it’s only a bit fun, which as even she acknowledged, was Ok.
Limitless is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from the 1st of August