Who's up for sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and mathematics?
Welcome to the world of Limitless.
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a dishevelled, sentimental copywriter/sci-fi author with writer's block. Obviously he's never read a 'How To Beat Writer's Block' article. Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), his ex-brother-in-law, helps him out with an unidentified smart drug, NZT 48.
With one swallow, the world is bathed in divine golden light. Epiphany after epiphany, Eddie's mind becomes a temporary google database of its own. In New York minutes, he finishes his manuscript, learns a couple of languages, applies algorithms to succeed in the stock exchange, and gives ingenious business advice to magnate Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro). Oh, and long-term NZT users develop a penchant for fancy suits.
Like all pharmaceutical products, the pill has side effects - in this case, both health and gangster related.
Limitless is an adaptation of the 2001 thriller novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, so there's bound to be a typhoon of extreme book-lovers intent on destroying this movie. Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), it contains thrilling visual effects and editing techniques that easily compete with those of Inception. 'This isn't The Matrix,' Eddie smugly acknowledges, as the film boasts M.C. Escher references, trippy never-ending mirrors and falcon-fast zooms through crowded urban streets - all without the aid of 3D glasses. Think: hyperactive versions of the 'Seven Nation Army'/'Shut Up And Let Me Go' video.
Speaking of music videos, the soundtrack teams behind this film should also be praised. Music supervisors Happy Walters and Season Kent (The Fighter, The Spy Next Door) and BAFTA-award winning composer Paul Leonard-Morgan (Spooks) supply appropriate scores to both high-octane and relaxed scenes – from up-tempo electronic dance to tranquilised distorted-guitar blues. Keep your ears open for the Diplo/Latino beach-house music. You'll want to have a solo clubbing moment too when it kicks in.
With Limitless, Bradely Cooper proves himself as the versatile action-film hero. Charming and funny, his voice-over narration can be caustic and witty. He shows off his multilingual skills, speaking French, Italian, Mandarin and some sort of Slavic (Russian?) - almost as impressive as Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. He even manages to squeeze in a random Bruce Lee-inspired fight scene as per the action film formula. Also, De Niro is spot on as the artful business mogul, reminding us that he's still a Method Hollywood force to be reckoned with. Australian actress Abbie Cornish (Candy, Bright Star) is commendable as Lindy, Eddie's contrasting girlfriend, succeeding as editor on her own med-free terms.
Limitless does have its downsides. Firstly, there's an unresolved subplot involving a murderer whose identity is not explicitly revealed. Secondly, many science-inclined viewers would be bothered by the idea of humans accessing only 20% of their brains - it's widely accepted among neuroscientists that we use all of it.
Limitless is ultimately a film about power, invincibility and the quest for intellectual and social superlativeness. This kaleidoscopic film is jam-packed with so many different elements it has a broad appeal.
If you're looking for a rollercoaster movie to start the autumn season with - this is it!