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Film Talk: Looking Back – A high-octane brain fuel frenzy with Limitless

It’s often said that the greatest resource anyone possesses is their own brain... but what if you could increase it’s power ten-fold?

The sky's the limit: Bradley Cooper in 2011's Limitless
The sky's the limit: Bradley Cooper in 2011's Limitless

Directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon, 2011’s Limitless is an intelligent and engaging thriller based on the novel The Dark Fields, by Alan Glynn.

Starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, the film follows Edward Morra (Cooper), a struggling writer who is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain’s capability.

With acceleration in his mental prowess comes improvement to his creativity and productivity, and with this, his lifestyle, bank account and social status.

But as Eddie soon realises, there is a dark side to the drug and the world it has introduced him to.

Also featuring Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel, Limitless combines an intriguing premise with a talented cast, and shines as one of the most engaging cinematic offerings from the decade just gone...

Aspiring writer Eddie Morra is a loser both professionally and personally. Recently dumped by his girlfriend Lindy (Cornish), a glum Eddie has an unexpected encounter with his former brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth).

As a token of goodwill when hearing how sorry his life has become, Vernon gives Eddie a dose of an experimental drug called NZT to increase his creativity by allowing him to utilise ‘unused’ areas of his brain.

Finding the results more than impressive, Eddie decides to seek out Vernon to ask for more pills, but a visit to Vernon’s house leads to the discovery of his dead body.

Eddie calls the police, however in the meantime finds and takes Vernon’s hidden stash of NZT.

With a large supply of the drug now secured, Eddie’s life begins to take an upward turn. He soon finds himself succeeding in every endeavour he applies himself to – including stock market investment – and even wins Lindy back. However, Eddie’s financial successes begin to attract the attention of others, including banking tycoon Carl Van Loon (De Niro) and shady Russian loanshark Gennady (Andrew Howard).

As Eddie enters the world of these two ruthless men, he realises the stakes are higher than he could have ever imagined, and that Vernon’s death may only be the beginning...

A box office success, Limitless grossed over $161 million on a budget of $27 million.

Critics praised its premise, and a follow-up TV series of the same name debuted in 2015, though only lasted one season.

With a charismatic performance from Cooper, and an unsurprisingly strong turn from De Niro, Limitless was a great idea delivered well, and has stood up to the test of time so far.

With a notably clever array of visual effects used to take the audience along on the ride with Eddie as he experiences the effect of the NZT drug, as well as a pacing that is exciting but controlled, viewers are drawn fully into the adventure that Limitless presents for its protagonist.

The chemistry between its lead stars is smooth, and with solid performances from its supporting cast, the flick maintains a cohesion that allows it to comfortably ask its audience to accept a variety of plot turns and fantastical concepts.

A great directorial effort from Burger, Limitless shines as a slick, edgy adrenaline-fuelled yarn that comfortably stands up to a re-watch, and can be enjoyed time and time again.

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