Pushing limits while paying a price

Limitless 2011 movie

"What if it were possible to go from being a pathetic good-for-nothing to one of the most successful people in history, just by taking a single pill? Would it be worth any potential and likely probable side effects? What dosage would be considered abusive? Would there be any serious withdrawal effects?

"Director Neil Burger ("The Illusionist") attempts to answer these questions in "Limitless." Sporting a well-written and fast-paced plot, interesting characters and gorgeous special effects, "Limitless" not only answers the above questions, but does so in style.

"The film centers around struggling writer Eddie Morra, played by Bradley Cooper ("The Hangover"), whose life is in the middle of a downward spiral: his tiny apartment is a mess, the book contract he had is stuck in permanent standby and he is running out of money. To make matters worse, his girlfriend Lindy, played by Abbie Cornish ("Stop-Loss"), is about to break up with him. A distraught Eddie runs into his ex-brother-in-law Vernon, played by Johnny Whitworth (TV’s "CSI: Miami"), who offers him a miracle pill known as NZT, which is supposed to stimulate the frontal lobe of the brain, thus increasing brain activity and endowing the user with enhanced intelligence, memory and creativity.

"Though reluctant at first, Eddie takes the pill, and almost immediately feels its effects; he writes an entire novel in four days, helps his landlord with a term paper using only information he’d gathered subconsciously years before, and learns multiple languages with incredible ease. However, as with most drugs, the effects do not last. Without more NZT, Eddie is once again reduced to his old underachieving self.

"When Eddie visits Vernon’s apartment only to find his dead body, he comes across a large supply of NZT, which he uses to further advance his success. He switches his life’s focus from writing to economics, ultimately winding up working with big-time businessman Carl Loon, played by Robert De Niro ("Goodfellas"). Together, they plan an ambitious merger with another company, however, Eddie finds himself the target of a number of sinister parties eager to get ahold of his supply of NZT, and begins to realize the true nature of the so-called wonder drug.

"The film’s plot is extremely well-written and relevant to modern society. Based on a novel by Alan Glynn, it delivers a unique take on "miracle drugs" that is more than a 105-minute anti-drug message. Cooper and De Niro are excellent as Eddie and Van Loon, providing believable performances. Rounding out the supporting cast are Eddie’s ex-wife Melissa (Anna Friel, "Land of the Lost"), businessman Hank Atwood (Richard Berkins, TV’s "Law and Order"), and Russian mobster-turned-NZT-addict Gennady (Andrew Howard, TV’s "Band of Brothers").

"The film boasts a number of breathtaking special effects that clearly illustrate the effects of NZT on the characters’ minds. The film opens with a fascinating and slightly headache inducing "hyperzoom" across Manhattan’s 42nd Street, and other similar effects occur in other parts of the film.

"While NZT may not be a real drug, its place in the film’s plot serves as an interesting commentary on modern pharmacological advancements. Seeing "Limitless" might not take the pain away, but it will without a doubt eliminate the boredom.