Review of Limitless, the film based on The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn

So, I actually got to go see a film. On a real date. With my husband and no one else. We went to see Limitless. The movie was enjoyable, and it created discussion that lasted the whole drive home, which I always enjoy.

The movie's premise is thus: Eddie Mora, a writer struggling with writer's block, is offered a new drug that is supposed to unlock his brain's full potential. It does so, and he gets a large enough supply of the drug to last long enough to completely alter his life and thrust him into a world of money, women, and highly motivated opponents, leaving him to sort his way through while trying not to die from various causes.

The first hint of danger comes right as Eddie's decided to be his ex-brother-in-law Vernon's bitch, doing whatever it takes for Eddie to keep getting the NZT drug from him. He returns from picking up lunch and the dry cleaning to find his ex-bro murdered. Stunned and afraid, Eddie dials 911. But while the cops are en route, Eddie takes a more serious look around and realizes that the killer trashed the apartment looking for something...and maybe he didn't find it, which resulted in the ex-bro's death. Well, glory be, Eddie's contribution to the ransacking is rewarded, with a fat bag of NZT (which look like hard contact lenses, btw).

Eddie goes home, pulls facts out of his arse like rainbows to impress (and lay) the landlady, then opens up a can of Fly Lady on his tiny apartment. And then he decides to sit down and pound out 90 pages of his novel for his editor.

Being a writer, I strove to calculate how much writing that would actually be, and whether he could do it before the next morning, when the following scene began. It wasn't clear whether Eddie stayed up all night or not. Ninety pages @250 words per page, in double-spaced Courier font = 22,500 words. If he was an expert typist and had zero hesitation time, he could have pounded that out in under four hours. But that assumes he had a plot laid out and scenes in mind ahead of time, and it wasn't clear whether he did or not. I got the impression he slammed out his 90 pages in just a few hours, and that's at least physically possible, if not mentally. However, he proceeded to finish the rest of his novel manuscript in the next few days, and I had to wonder where the scene was of him with ice on his wrists. Or maybe that's just me and my tendinitis.

Moving on: Eddie has big plans, though unrevealed. To finance them, he begins to dabble in the stock market. Most of the rest of the movie follows the results of this choice. He does well, he gets a loan from a Russian loan shark to get more money faster, he attracts the attention of Mr. van Loon (De Niro), he works on a merger between van Loon and another mogul named Atwood.

The NZT was having negative effects on Eddie. He got accused of a murder and had to hire a lawyer. He tried to track down what he believed were other clients of Vernon's NZT-pimping business, and found that they were dead or gravely ill. He was being followed by a hatchet-faced, silent greasy type.

It was at the end, when things were supposed to be tying together, that I noticed they weren't. The movie was focused too much on Eddie and what his new braininess was doing for him to bother looking back at plot strands.

It was never revealed who killed Vernon. There were only a couple of killer characters in the movie, and only one probably did it, and his motive was probably X, but why it got to that point, the point where murder seemed the only option, simply reveals another plot hole.

Several characters, on-screen and off, had some experience taking NZT. Yet, Eddie's the only one smart enough to figure out a way around the drug's nasty side effects? Others on the drug can't avoid letting things deteriorate to murder? Sorry, but the throw-away line "it helps if you're already smart" just can't explain that hole away for me. ALL those people were on NZT, and NONE of them realized or attempted to combat that fatal loophole? What, were the pills handed out at the midnight showing of the latest Twilight movie?

A minor but annoying plot divot kicked in with the "no service" issue on Eddie's cell phone. (That's not the divot; it could have been explained in the scene, but wasn't.) He flees into a sort of safe room...and there's a land line phone in there, but he doesn't use it! Cary Elwes and the cell phone much? Gah.

Okay, Twi-hards, I'm sorry I bashed your movie. To make it up to you, let me say that Limitless has the drinking of blood in it. There, happy? Well, I wasn't. The drinking (okay, slurping) has a specific purpose, but in order to achieve said purpose, the amount of blood that needed to be slurped should have been at least a couple of pints. But nooo, the blood pool is nearly untouched when the next bit of action takes over. Come on, people! Especially in a "geniuses everywhere" movie! Shame.

This is definitely a guys' movie. Eddie has a gorgeous girlfriend who dumps him as nicely as humanly possible at the beginning of the movie, even though he's a total unwashed loser. Then he bangs the landlady. Then he bangs a bunch of hot rich chicks at a foreign beach house. Then he gets his girlfriend back and bangs her. Then he has a massive blackout due to NZT and vaguely remembers banging a couple of girls in the same night. This covers about, oh, two weeks? And he never suffers any consequences for his playboy lifestyle. This must be the "oh, shut up, you know you'd do it too, dude" part of the movie. My husband's opinion on the proclivities of the women of New York City makes me wonder whether he's secretly been watching Sex and the City.

The cinematography in this movie was awesome. Whenever Eddie (or whoever) was "on", the light changed from a dry, dark tone to warm and comfy. A play on "suddenly the light came on", and all sorts of references to enlightenment come to mind. Visual effects were sparse, but used to great effect in representing the mental processes that Eddie was going through. I especially loved the letters raining from the ceiling as he wrote those first ninety pages of his novel (the title of which was a nod to Glynn's original).

I had an epiphany after the movie had ended. At the beginning of the film, Eddie's struggling to explain the yet-to-be-written novel's plot to a guy in a bar. He eventually says something like this: "it's masquerading as a sci-fi, but underneath it's all about how we're all struggling". Well, perhaps the movie is smart, after all, being that self-aware. :)

The ending was something I didn't see coming, actually. I was sure I knew who was going to live and who was going to die, but I was wrong. The ending was happier than I was expecting, considering the earlier tone of the movie. So much so that, contrary to my usual preference, I might actually have enjoyed a darker ending. It would probably feel more realistic.

I'd recommend seeing it as a fun strategy/action flick, but don't try to follow the logic. It's followable, of course, but I kept getting frustrated that here, and not there, was where the genius led. Just let it ride. And if someone offers you something that looks like a hard contact lens, maybe ask if they have the blue pill instead.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I was actually wondering if I should see it so i guess youv'e solved my dilemma.

    I totally get the excitment about finally having a date with the husband, glad you had fun!