Posted May 7, 2011 by William Dunmyer in Drama

Limitless: Shallow But Enjoyable

“Limitless” is a shallow but enjoyable, stylishly directed thriller about a thirtysomething fellow (played reasonably well by Bradley Cooper) who becomes addicted to a mysterious new drug that super-powers the brain.


He becomes a day-trading millionaire within a month, discovering secrets to investing that no one else has figured out. He reads books at the speed of light and remembers everything. He becomes cultured overnight and attracts every super-model in New York. Livin’ large.


The trouble is that the drug sometimes causes your conscious mind to turn off, and you become something like pure id, capable of all manner of violence.


You can also never go off it. People fall apart as soon as their stash runs out. Some die in weeks. In their last days, they go on a mad search for more pills, willing to kill to get more. Anyone with a supply thus must live in a bunker, constantly surrounded by bodyguards.


We watch as he struggles to protect his stash and then survive his first bout of withdrawal when the supply runs out. A few subplots keep things interesting. One involves the man’s down-to-earth girlfriend (played by the always-magnetic Abbie Cornish) and the other his new boss, a Wall Street titan played by Robert De Niro.


But the film never really goes anywhere. Ultimately it doesn’t have much to say about addiction or the 21st-century desire for limitlessness. There’s a good set-up with no real payoff. If you asked the screenwriter or the director what the film was ultimately about, they’d probably have trouble replying.


This is the fourth film from director Neil Burger, “The Illusionist” (starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti) being the best known of his previous efforts. He is the kind of director who cares more about the look of a film than anything else. He’s got a great eye but not a great mind. There’s a very long list now of directors who really only know about cinematography. It’s no surprise that Burger got his start at MTV. This kind of filmmaker produces what are essentially glorified music videos. The story is rudimentary; what matters is that it looks cool. And “Limitless” definitely looks cool.



William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.