Limitless is a 2011 American science fiction thriller film directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel. The film follows Edward Morra, a struggling writer who is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and vastly improve his lifestyle.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Neil Burger|
|Screenplay by||Leslie Dixon|
|Based on||The Dark Fields|
by Alan Glynn
|Music by||Paul Leonard-Morgan|
|Box office||$161.8 million|
Limitless was released on March 18, 2011 and became a box office success, grossing over $161 million on a budget of $27 million. A television series of the same name, covering events that take place after the film, debuted on September 22, 2015, but was cancelled after one season.
Eddie Morra is a struggling author in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress, breaks up with him. Eddie encounters Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, who gives Eddie a sample of a new nootropic called NZT-48. On the drug, Eddie discovers he has acquired perfect recollection of everything he has ever read and refined his interpersonal skills. His new power enables him to make significant progress on his book.
The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings his pages to his publisher, who praises them. Eddie seeks out Vernon for more NZT-48 but while Eddie leaves to run some errands for Vernon, Vernon is murdered by someone searching for the drug. Eddie locates Vernon's supply and begins ingesting pills daily. With its effects, Eddie improves his entire lifestyle, appearance, sex appeal, and social circle, and finishes his book. While enjoying his new life, Eddie has an epiphany to focus his talent on investing.
Eddie quickly begins making large returns on the stock market and borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady. He is hired at a brokerage firm and resumes his relationship with Lindy. Eddie experiences what he refers to as a "time skip," a momentary lapse in memory. Eddie's success leads to a meeting with finance tycoon Carl Van Loon, who tests him by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood's company. After the meeting, Eddie experiences an 18-hour party-hopping time skip. The next day in a meeting with Van Loon, Eddie sees a news telecast that a woman has been murdered. Eddie recognizes the woman as someone he met during his time skip, and abruptly leaves the meeting.
By calling the people in Vernon's ledger, Eddie realizes everyone taking NZT-48 is hospitalized or dead. A man in a trench coat is revealed to have been following him. Eddie meets with Melissa, who had also been on the drug but, when she attempted to stop, experienced a severe mental and physical rebound effect. Gennady finds Eddie and demands the money be paid back immediately, with interest. He discovers and ingests Eddie's last NZT-48, and begins using Eddie as his source for the drug.
Desperate for a pill, Eddie asks Lindy to retrieve his stash. En route to Eddie, she notices the man in the trench coat following her. She calls Eddie for help and he encourages her to take one of the pills, which empowers her to escape. Afterwards, Lindy tells Eddie she cannot be with him while he is on the drug.
Eddie experiments with NZT-48 and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse-engineer the drug, an attorney to keep the police from investigating the death of Vernon or the woman, and two bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who is threatening him to obtain more NZT-48.
On the day of the merger, Atwood falls into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood's driver as the man in the trench coat and realizes Atwood is on NZT-48. While Eddie participates in a police lineup, his attorney steals Eddie's whole supply of pills from his jacket pocket. Eddie enters into withdrawal, and while Van Loon questions him about Atwood's coma, Eddie receives a parcel which is found to contain the severed hands of his bodyguards. He hurries home and locks himself in, before Gennady breaks into Eddie's apartment, demanding more NZT-48. As Gennady threatens to eviscerate him, Eddie grabs his own knife and kills Gennady, then licks Gennady's blood, which contains NZT-48. This gives Eddie the mental abilities of the drug once again, and Eddie is able to kill the remaining henchmen. He then meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT-48. Once Atwood dies, the two recover Eddie's stash from his attorney's apartment.
A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book, and is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals he has absorbed the company that produced NZT-48 and shut down Eddie's laboratory. He offers Eddie a continued supply of the drug in exchange for becoming his personal lobbyist. Eddie tells Van Loon he has already perfected the drug and weaned himself off it, retaining his abilities without side effects. He leaves and meets Lindy at a Chinese restaurant for lunch and orders in fluent Mandarin.
- Bradley Cooper as Edward "Eddie" Morra
- Robert De Niro as Carlos "Carl" Van Loon
- Abbie Cornish as Lindy
- Anna Friel as Melissa Gant
- Johnny Whitworth as Vernon Gant
- Richard Bekins as Henry "Hank" Atwood
- Robert John Burke as Donald "Don" Pierce
- Tomas Arana as the Man in a tan coat
- T.V. Carpio as Valerie
- Patricia Kalember as Mrs. Atwood
- Andrew Howard as Gennady
- Ned Eisenberg as Morris Brandt
Limitless is based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. The film is directed by Neil Burger and is based on a screenplay by Leslie Dixon, who had acquired rights to the source material. Dixon wrote the adapted screenplay for less than her normal cost in exchange for being made one of the film's producers. She and fellow producer Scott Kroopf approached Burger to direct the film, at the time titled The Dark Fields. For Burger, who had written and directed his previous three films, the collaboration was his first foray solely as director. With Universal Pictures developing the project, Shia LaBeouf was announced in April 2008 to be cast as the film's star.
The project eventually moved to development under Relativity Media and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Produced with Universal distributing through Relativity's Rogue Pictures. By November 2009, actor Bradley Cooper replaced LaBeouf in the starring role. Robert De Niro was cast opposite Cooper by March 2010, and The Dark Fields began filming in Philadelphia the following May. Filming also took place in New York City. For a car chase scene filmed in Puerto Vallarta, filmmakers sought a luxury car. Italian carmaker Maserati provided two Maserati GranTurismo coupes free in "a guerrilla-style approach" to product placement. By December 2010, The Dark Fields was re-titled Limitless.
The film notably incorporates fractal zooming, jump cutting, and out-of-body scenes to convey the effect of the wonder drug on the protagonist. Green screens and motion control photography were used to produce the visual effect of characters performing an action and then turning around to see themselves doing that action again. The opening scene was created with still photographs stitched together using a variety of special effects techniques.
The film grossed $18.9 million on its opening weekend to rank first at the box office, beating other openers The Lincoln Lawyer and Paul as well as carryovers Rango and Battle: Los Angeles. Limitless was released in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2011.
Before the film's release, Box Office Mojo called Limitless a "wild card", highlighting its "clearly articulated" premise and the pairing of Cooper and De Niro, but questioned a successful opening. The film opened at number one in its first week in the US. The film did well at the box office, earning some $79 million in the U.S. and Canada as well as some $157 million worldwide against its $27 million budget.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Limitless has an approval rating of 69% based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Although its script is uneven, Neil Burger directs Limitless with plenty of visual panache, and Bradley Cooper makes for a charismatic star." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received a score of 59 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 and 1/2 stars and said it was "not terrifically good, but the premise is intriguing" and also stated that director Neil Burger uses "inventive visual effects." Lastly he said, "Limitless only uses 15, maybe 20 percent of its brain. Still, that's more than a lot of movies do."
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Limitless should be so much smarter than it is," believing that it took conventional plot turns and stuck closely to genre elements like Russian gangsters and Wall Street crooks. Honeycutt reserved praise for Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and Anna Friel. He also commended cinematographer Jo Willems' camerawork and Patrizia von Brandenstein's production design in the film's array of locales.
Variety's Robert Koehler called Limitless a "propulsive, unexpectedly funny thriller". Koehler wrote, "What makes the film so entertaining is its willingness to go far out, with transgressive touches and mind-bending images that take zoom and fish-eye shots to a new technical level, as the pill enables Eddie to experience astonishing new degrees of clarity, perception and energy." He said of Cooper's performance, "Going from grungy to ultra-suave with a corresponding shift in attitude, Cooper shows off his range in a film he dominates from start to finish. The result is classic Hollywood star magnetism, engaging auds [audiences] physically and vocally, as his narration proves to be a crucial element of the pic's humor." The critic also positively compared Willems' cinematography to the style in Déjà Vu (2006) and commended the tempo set by the film's editors Naomi Geraghty and Tracy Adams and by composer Paul Leonard-Morgan.
Bradley Cooper announced in October 2013 that he, Leslie Dixon and Scott Kroopf would be executive producers of a television series based on Limitless. On November 3, 2014, it was announced that CBS would be financing a pilot episode for the Limitless TV series. The pilot continued where the film left off. It was revealed that the main character would be called Brian Finch.
The Limitless pilot would be directed by Marc Webb, replacing Burger who had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict with the Showtime drama pilot Billions. Burger is still an executive producer, alongside Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Heather Kadin. It is based on a script by Elementary executive producer Craig Sweeny. The Limitless pilot was screentested on June 1, 2015 with Jake McDorman, Jennifer Carpenter, Hill Harper and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio starring.
Limitless officially got a series order in May 2015. The show was announced as a spin-off of the film, before confirming that Bradley Cooper would make regular appearances, reprising his role as Edward Morra. 
On May 25, 2016, Craig Sweeny announced the series had been cancelled after one season.
- Transhumanist stories in television and film
- Charly (film)
- Intellectual giftedness
- Lucy, a 2014 film about a similar nootropic drug, CPH4
- Understand, a 1991 novelette by Ted Chiang, nominated for the 1992 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and won the 1992 Asimov’s Reader Poll.
- Phenomenon (film)
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