Film Review: Limitless

It amazes me that Limitless seems to have slipped from the main stream conscious quite as much as it has, especially considering it stars Bradley Cooper in the lead role. An actor who it appears, Hollywood cannot do enough to keep firmly lit by an ever brightening light. But disappear it has, and I don’t actually think it deserves this fate.

I will fully accept that it’s never going to live on as a piece of cinematic royalty. Or even dine at the same table. Mainly because it has a plot full of holes and for large parts is shallow in explanation and unquestioning in its glossing over of obvious issues in the feasibility of its story. But I can forgive it because it’s not a movie designed to portray real life. It is unrealistic because it is simply a film that pads out two ideological dreams. It expands “I wonder…” and “I wish…”.

Bradley Cooper Wondering - Limitless

And because all it wants to do is take you and make you ponder these thoughts, rather that have a deep conversation with you, I can look past it’s bigger faults. The enjoyment from Limitless isn’t in examining it in every detail, looking at the writing, the acting or the editing; but rather, it’s in the outlandishness of it’s potential. That doubt in the back of your head that the further from seeming reality it goes, the more you just quietly and unspeakingly wonder whether, actually, it may be possible or even true.

We all have those moments where we feel inferior and the reason that Limitless works for me is because it makes you evoke those feelings but then gives you a hug and tells you it’s not your fault. It excuses you those thoughts because it tells you the other guy is cheating. He’s not better than you, he’s just breaking the rules.

Visually the film is stunning and credit must go to Cinematographer Jo Willems who brings to life New York with beautiful realism that instantly captures the emotional state the film finds itself in. Complimenting the state of the characters as they peak and trough through the story, reinforcing the ideas of the film and helping to draw you into the story.

Jo Willems (Director Of Photography) - Limitless

Limitless also manages to pack more into it’s running time than you feel it should be able to without ever overstepping it the mark. It’s an hour and three-quarters yet feels longer. Not in a way that drags, bores or lingers on, but rather always feeling tight and compact. I would have easily said I’d been given a story of at least two hours and it’s a credit to the film that even with such a weak plot, it still has enough inner strength to keeps you constantly engaged and interested. It’s a well executed piece of Hollywood escapism.

Bradley Cooper was in the middle of laying the foundations for his potential when he took on the lead role. A time before he met Jenifer Lawrence, and while there was a risk of stereotyping himself into comedy with The A-Team and The Hangover franchise. But what Limitless does is give Cooper the ability to play a range of states, to remove the façade of comedy as a shield or excuse, and demand he constantly and emotionally connects with you as the audience throughout the passage of events. And he does so brilliantly. You never actually pitty him when he is at his lowest because he taps into you, he makes you subconsciously feel his position. The scenario may not be the same, but the emotions are. He’s descending towards rock bottom and we all understand his predicament because we’ve all faced that sense of falling in our own lives. And this therefore means, when he takes forward steps, when his life picks up, we don’t hate him but rather envy him. You draw strength that if he can recover from that position so can you. If he can improve his lot then so can you. Even if you are fully aware of the artificialness of his position and the unreality of his existence.

Bradley Cooper Premier) - Limitless

Sadly, the ending slightly destroys that emotional bond, you answer the pondering questions in your head and then the film demands one last word and destroys the character that allowed you to personify those ideas. He goes from being a dream to cling to becoming a figure of repulsion and that’s such a shame, because it unbalances the film and leaves it with a slightly sour taste in the mouth.

I am fully aware that it is slightly ironic that to really accept this film you need to switch off your brain and not examine it. You need to just accept that it’s a few weak ideas expanded out into a larger, implausible story. That it is the characters and the dream that give it a simplistic charm and strength more than anything else. But that’s why it will never really date, feel old or out of place. It’s not about monumental theories of life, but rather, about the dream we all cling to that somehow, someday we can have a life that’s just beyond our natural reach. Whatever the cost.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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