Review: Limitless

First of all, a message to the man in the back row of screen 4 in the Rochester Cineworld, Sunday 3rd April: No-one wants to see your feet!

I was made to feel sick to my stomach when a man sat in the middle of the row, with the stairs in front of him, proceeded to undress his feet and put them up on the chair in front of him. My suspicion is that he wasn’t happy with having one of the two or three seats in the whole screen with the most leg room; he wanted the whole half of the back row for himself by putting people off moving past him by blocking the way with his massive, gnarly flippers. Further to this he wasn’t even wearing socks, which smacks of going out of his way to achieve his goal.

A brave couple did decide to sit past him on ‘his’ row, which almost incited an argument. It ended with the selfish man relenting and letting the couple past with the guy throwing a final, brilliant put-down: “Nice toes.” Which made the people sitting within earshot laugh.

One last thing before I move on to the main review: if you are someone who does this, or if you are actually this person, when you are in the cinema you are not in your front room. You are in a public place and no-one wants to see or smell your feet; it is anti-social and off-putting to people around you. If you can’t abide by these rules then wait for the DVD. Below is the official code of conduct for the cinematic experience voted for by cinema goers on BBC 5 Live.

Limitless is the story of Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper), an aspiring writer who is suffering from severe writer’s block. He is offered a mysterious drug by his ex-wife’s brother who claims it is above-board and legal. The pill allows him to access all of his brain power but its effects only last a day. In no time he’s written a whole novel, has changed his image, started learning a number of foreign languages and has managed to charm women to sleep with him by using his new-found knowledge to impress them.

What then unfolds is a dubious moral tale of how drugs can take you on a series of unfathomable highs and lows and also how they have an adverse affect on your mental health. In this case, Cooper’s character moves from writing and self-cleansing into stocks and shares quadrupling his money in a matter of days. But the drug turns out to be not so legal, and the blackouts and cravings make him physically sick when he starts to run out of pills after finding out he can’t get any more.

There are a few hard-to-grasp moments where you find yourself wondering why someone with limitless intelligence would make such stupid judgement calls. For example borrowing money from a loan shark and forgetting to pay him back even though he’s made a ridiculous amount  of money on top of that in the first day of trading. Also, if you had a ration of these smart pills (NZT), why would you knock them back with such abandon?

The pace of the film means that there isn’t really a lot of time for you to think about these moments for too long. So much happens in the hour and a half that you have to concentrate, and any ill-timed toilet breaks could leave you lagging behind trying to figure out what just happened.

What is evident is that if Shia LeBeouf had played the lead in this film, which he was supposed to do before breaking his arm, Mora would have been a completely unbelievable character. Cooper plays him in a very genuine and likeable way, even though he is quite a grubby, greedy womaniser with a drug addiction which at one point drives him to drink the blood of a dead man just to get a hit of NZT. This is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I have seen in a long time and a loud groan of impending horror rose from the audience as it unfolded slowly.

Limitless is a well made, if not a little too fast-paced, thriller with some innovative camera work that gives a relentless surging feel as the camera is shot forward down the New York streets, through car windscreens and down sidewalks after Mora takes NZT. Also, when Mora is on the drug, the picture sharpens and colour floods onto the screen to indicate that he is experiencing every detail of the world in his new state of mind as opposed to the dull, grey tinged world he inhabits while off the drug.

 There is some brilliant acting from the cast including a great supporting performance from Robert DeNiro as multi-billionaire Carl Van Loon (a role he must have agreed to for the name alone, as his screen time is only about 15 minutes), who takes Mora on as a financial advisor. But more than this: it shows that Cooper can carry a serious lead role.

This won’t be the best film you’ll see all year, but it is definitely worth a watch if just to ask what you’d do in Mora’s shoes.

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