Today: April 19, 2024
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Limitless

Chances are you’ve seen the ads for Clearpill, which promises to
unlock your potential and activate 100% of your brain – and then lists a
huge number of side effects, which actually don’t seem that much worse
than those on nicotine substitutes (seriously, read the small print on
patches and gum).

There’s even a website (www.clearpill.co.uk), where someone, who
looks remarkably like Bradley Cooper, is extolling the virtues of NZT.
It’s quite convincing, given all the stuff pharmaceutical companies and
advertisers are pushing at us every day and it is a real advertising
campaign, just not for a wonder drug that will resolve the problem of
school funding and university fees. It’s for a new movie, Limitless,
starring – Bradley Cooper based on the book The Dark Fields.

In the book, the author manages to convey a sense of the effects of
the drug, because reading it makes you feel like you had taken the drug.
OK, not to the actual extent being described, but a sense of its
possibilities was there. The question was how it could be translated to
the screen as a lot of it is internalised and is recounted in the first
person, while a lot of the “action” involved sitting in front of a
computer. For the most part the filmmakers have done a great job and
actually added a lot of humour that wasn’t in the book, which is hardly
surprising as the screenplay is by Leslie Dixon, whose credits
include Overboard, Mrs Doubtfire, Freaky Friday (2003) and Hairspray.
The film opens with Cooper’s character Eddie Morra struggling with
writer’s block. On one of his writing aversion excursions, Eddie happens
to bump into his ex-brother-in-law Vernon, who takes pity on Eddie and
his literary travails and gives him a sample pill of NZT to help him
out. Within minutes Eddie is a new man, and the writer’s block has gone.
In a burst of creative energy he writes the book he has been struggling
with for months and turns in a big chunk of it to his editor the
following day. Unfortunately, the effects of the drug have worn off and
he needs more to finish the job. He visits Vernon again to get some more
pills, only to find the apartment ransacked and Vernon with a bullet in
his head. Luckily for Eddie, he finds Vernon’s stash before the cops
arrive.

After a couple of more doses Eddie starts seeing patterns
in the stock market and begins making a lot of money very quickly,
making him the toast of Wall Street. Now, remember the side-effects
mentioned in the Clearpill ads? They start happening to Eddie and his
supplies are getting low and he has a big merger he needs see through
for mega-corporation boss Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro). He’s also got Russian mobsters after him, and another very sinister character too. It’s not looking good for Eddie.

Naturally,
it’s impossible to put everything from a book into a movie – unless
it’s a Philip K Dick short story where they add more than was ever there
– but this does capture a lot of the essence of the book and the story.
Cooper is great in the lead and convincingly plays Eddie with both
charm as a winner and angst and pathos as a loser. There is a strong
support cast with De Niro doing some of his better work in recent years
as Van Loon. It’s not much of a stretch for him to play charming and
menacing, but he does it without resorting to his familiar tics. Abbie Cornish does well as his girlfriend and Anna Friel
is a surprise as Eddie’s ex-wife, and is about as far removed from her
Pushing Daisies character as you could get without adding serious
prosthetics.

Visually the film is a treat, and while is doesn’t
have the same effect as the book, it certainly is interesting, with
shades of Michel Gondry, as well as reminiscences of scenes from
Fight Club and Stranger Than Fiction. It is a good, solid entertaining
movie, which offers a ray of hope in these difficult times.
Unfortunately for me, having read the book, my only complaint was the
ending, which was a total Hollywood cop out. Go and see the movie, enjoy it, because it is very enjoyable, then read the book. Just don’t read the book first.


Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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