Limitless (Burger, 2011)

While I love the concept of this film, execution of the narrative is done rather poorly. If one has read even the littlest bit of Aldous Huxley’s Doors Of Perception, one would recognize that Limitless’ approach to this concept is banal, superficial, and ultimately sheer fantasy. It’s basically a superhero film, but where the superpower is knowledge, and responsibility to the people doesn’t exist — how selfish.

Huxley’s Mind At Large theory posits that man has access to pure, boundless knowledge, but that within the mind is a valve that naturally filters virtually everything out, so that man can act in the world with clarity, without being overwhelmed by over awareness of perceptive sensations. He suggests that hallucinogenic substances have the capacity of opening one’s doors of perception; in other words, releasing this filtration valve, to some extent, and permitting higher awareness of one’s mental capacities.

Huxley never suggested this would give man access to 100% of one’s mental faculties, although he did suggest that this may occur at one’s death. He did however suggest that, if it were to happen while alive, it would render the person unable to act, since time would slip out of one’s awareness, and all of experience would be occurring simultaneously.

That’s fine; this is a film; it has to be entertaining; it’s not going to deal with boring philosophy. But, the way in which Eddie (Bradley Cooper) raises his awareness while still being perfectly capable of acting — despite a few moments of blackouts and purging that ultimately never matters — is quite ridiculous. For a person who suddenly becomes capable of accessing 100% of his mental faculties, his thoughts, cares, responsibilities, etc. barely change. He remains selfish, thinking about how he can make money and win the girl; he talks about doing ‘great’ things, bigger than writing, but just works on Wall Street gambling on stocks. And then becomes a Senator? Why? Prospects of Presidency? It just doesn’t compute. It seems they just chose the highest ranking career point to throw at the smartest guy in the world, because the writers had no idea what the hell to do with him.

And don’t even get me started on the other NZT users. Eddie clearly takes way more of it; he’s the only one with access to the stash — why that’s the only stash doesn’t make any sense, but is never explained, and if it isn’t the only stash, why aren’t others rising above Eddie? — yet he is the one person that doesn’t get sick and die? I mean, I get it, he continually has access to it, so he’s not dying from the withdrawals, like everyone else is assumed to, but really? He’s apparently tapered off; I guess he’s the only one in the world taking the drug that was able to do this.

Now, the film is somewhat entertaining. I quite enjoyed the most of it, until the ending, which went nowhere. For a drug with such rich consequences, Eddie’s ending is farfetched; again, this film is just like a wet dream, a fantasy of suddenly being amazing at everything, with no consequences, not even sadness, paranoia, or insanity — things which typically greet genius. When they’re not warranted, I don’t like happy endings; they’re superficial.



About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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