Limitless – A Lesson In Cinematography

Limitless – A Lesson In Cinematography

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  1. What would happen if you could use all of your brain’s power rather than the 20 or so percent that you normally use?  That is the question Neil Burger’s 2011 adaptation of Alan Glynn’s novel ("The Dark Fields"), Limitless, addresses.  While Limitless didn’t win any Oscars or anything, Burger is no slouch.  His first feature, Interview With The Assassin (2002), picked up awards at the Avignon Film Festival and the Woodstock Film Festival.  Also, despite only having a handful of features under his directorial belt, Limitless is not the first time Burger worked with A-list talent.  His 2006 film, The Illusionist, features Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti while his 2008 film, The Lucky Ones, features Rachel McAdams and Tim Robbins.

    What is it about?

    Limitless, like so many other films, is about a struggling writer – Eddie (Bradley Cooper).  Not only does he have a deadline quickly approaching with no manuscript; but, also, his girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) just dumped him.  With his world collapsing around him, he runs into his ex-wife’s brother, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) who also happens to be a drug deal that has a new drug called NZT-48.  Eddie reluctantly decides to try the drug and, as promised, it allows him to use his entire brain capacity and he pumps out a good portion of his current manuscript with ease.  He is hooked.

    He starts working for Vernon by running errands and such for him in exchange for more pills.  One day, however, Eddie arrives back to Vernon’s place and finds Vernon murdered.  Eddie, freaked out, takes Vernon’s stash of NZT-48, some cash, and a book of addresses.  With a large supply of the drug, he starts a regular regiment allowing him to function at a higher level all the time.  He discovers an ability to recognize trends in the stock market which he capitalizes on and makes a fortune.

    Despite his immense monetary gains and his new powerful friends, things worsen for Eddie.  He starts losing track of his time on NZT-48, he starts running out of NZT-48 leaving him with horrible withdrawal side effects, and he may have murdered a woman without knowing it while on the drug.  He also has a mysterious man following him that may be connected with the Russian Mafia.  All the while, he is trying to reconnect with his ex girlfriend and help his new powerful friend Carl Van Loon (Robert DeNiro) with a lucrative merger.  To see how it all works out for Eddie, you will have to watch the film. 

    Is it any good?

    Limitless is a mixed bag.  The premise is intriguing, but taking Eddie into the stock market with his miracle drug is kind of boring.  Eddie could’ve done anything he wanted to on the drug.  His choice of making millions in the stock market is an okay choice, but it leads to another big problem.  The jargon associated with mergers, stocks, business acquisitions, etc. is all very technical and not easy to understand for those that aren’t part of that world.  That makes the film hard to follow at times for people that don’t have an intricate knowledge of things that go on in the billion dollar areas of corporations.  So, while the dialogue is probably very realistic, it’s hard to relate to for the majority of the audience that just wants to get caught up in the fun premise.

    The thing that really stands out in this film, though, is the cinematography.  It is simply incredible to watch.  Jo Willems is the Director of Photography and some of the shots he gets are breathtaking.  There are a number of shots that look like the camera is zooming through the city going in and out of car windows and everything… without cutting!  It’s magical.  Also, the look of the film while Eddie is on NZT-48 is more vibrant than the rest of the film.  It almost makes you feel like you are on a drug while you’re watching it.  It captures the idea of the drug perfectly.  The amazing editing by Tracy Adams and Naomi Geraghty helps add to the overall stunning look of the film.

    This film also marks one of the first feature films in which Bradley Cooper is the main lead.  He was noticed big time in The Hangover but he was part of an ensemble cast.  While he was by no means a no-name actor during Limitless, this film proves that his performance can hold up a film.  His charisma and charm make this film work.  Also, if you can hold your own on screen with Robert DeNiro, you’ve got it going on.  Bradley Cooper does.

    Nolan’s Grade:  B-

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