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A writer discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super human abilities.
For more about Limitless and the Limitless Blu-ray release, see Limitless Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Andrew Howard, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth
Director: Neil Burger
» See full cast & crew
Limitless Blu-ray Review
Well, maybe not quite. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 15, 2011
Cliff Robertson was sick and tired of watching other actors walk off with Academy Award nominations for film roles which he had originated in television versions of the same properties. In the Golden Age of live television drama, Robertson starred in well-received versions of The Days of Wine and Roses and The Hustler, and then had to stand there when the film versions went on to star the likes of Jack Lemmon and Paul Newman, both of whom received tremendous acclaim and, yep, Oscar nominations (neither won, perhaps thankfully, as Robertson's head might very well have exploded). And so when Robertson played another juicy role in a television drama, that of a mentally deficient man named Charly who was medically altered to become a super-genius, the actor wasn't taking any chances and secured the film rights for himself, walking away with his own Best Actor Academy Award in 1968 for Charly. (The award was rather notorious in its day for the amount of ad space Robertson bought touting his own performance and nomination, something that back in the 1960's was deemed incredibly scandalous but which nowadays is more or less par for the course). In the "everything old is new again" department, a sort of neo-Charly hit the megaplexes a few months ago in Limitless, a film which on its surface at least bears a certain resemblance to Charly and its source short story Flowers for Algernon. Though Limitless' lead character Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) isn't a mental defective, he's a professional writer, so that may in fact be splitting hairs. (I jest, of course). When Eddie is handed an illicit drug which ups his brain power considerably, suddenly he finds himself "King of the World," and havoc of course ensues. While Limitless has an interesting (if somewhat recycled) premise, there most likely aren't going to be any Academy Awards this time around, no matter how many trees are felled to produce ads touting anyone's acting feats. That doesn't mean that Limitless doesn't have its own charms, for it certainly does.
2011 may go down in some kind of record book as the year of the weirdly marketed movie. In this post-Matrix and especially post-Inception world, it seems virtually every high concept film coming down the pike emphasizes its supposed "mind bending" properties, but more often than not, the goods aren't delivered. The Adjustment Bureau was an especially egregious example of this, and some may have feared that Limitless would disappoint in the same way, especially ironic since the salient point of the hero's dilemma is that his mind is indeed bent—for the better. It's good, then, that Limitless at least has the courage of its trailer's convictions and does deliver at least a couple of really cool effects sequences, especially when Eddie is high on the weirdly named NZT (did no one think of how similar that is to the anti-AIDS drug AZT?). While director Neil Burger and cinematographer Jo Willems filter Eddie's "normal" life in drab grays and browns, once he pops his wonder pill, suddenly the palette is sharp, colorful and ultra-well defined. But the coolest effect is what Burger in his commentary calls an "infinite fractal zoom," a quick trip through huge swaths of Manhattan that may indeed be like catnip for traffic weary urbanites who have dreamt of getting from the Village to Harlem unimpeded.
Limitless is told mostly via flashback, and in true film-cliché fashion, we join the story already in progress and at a literal tipping point, as Eddie is evidently under attack, there are several dead bodies lying about, and Eddie himself is about to step off of the ledge surrounding his penthouse deck. Burger, as he mentions in his commentary, uses just about every trick at his disposal to fully articulate Eddie's story, and so we get everything from long narrated sections, to walls around Eddie suddenly becoming hyper-intelligent versions of those scrawls Jim Carrey kept seeing in The Number 23. It gives Limitless an ingenious visual allure, but it may strike some cynical types as being overly gimmicky.
Part of the problem with Limitless is that it, like Eddie himself, "skips" abruptly from plot device to plot device and several important sections of the film are either improperly set up, inadequately developed or frankly never completely explained. Just when you think that perhaps Robert De Niro's multibillionaire mover and shaker character Carl Van Loon (umm. . .NZT isn't the only naming problem this film has) might be the bad guy, suddenly we're confronted with two oddly similar looking people who are breathing down Eddie's throat and we have not a clue as to why. Though it's kind of (as in kind of) detailed in a whirlwind "Moishe the Explainer" moment at the film's climax, it's patently confusing as the film unfolds.
Limitless also doesn't seem to confidently know what kind of film it wants to be, somewhat similarly to The Adjustment Bureau. Though the film was marketed as, yes, yet another mind bending thriller, it really has higher ambitions, wishing to recast the Faust legend in a modern day world of mergers and high finance, not to mention illicit drugs. But then out of left field Limitless introduces little comedy bits like a one-off vignette about Eddie's first wife or a couple of times when Eddie's narration is completely at odds with what he's doing. And then the film really gets into cliché territory with a damsel in distress subplot that has Eddie's girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish, who looks for all the world like Charlize Theron's little sister) finds herself at the mercy of one of those two semi-identical bad guys.
Ultimately, though, Limitless manages to outrun its faults to deliver a fairly solid piece of entertainment, one helmed by Cooper's effortlessly charming, if not exactly Oliver-esque, qualities. In fact the film emphasizes Cooper's slacker allure, and there's a certain almost masturbatory frat boy quality in the film as Eddie, amped up on NZT, is able to cut a rather wide swath through Manhattan womanhood. And, really, what normal guy wouldn't want to look like Cooper and have the brainpower to get any hot woman into bed? Limitless may in fact be a bit too juvenile to ever really evoke the depth and nuance of the Faust legend, but it manages to create its own kind of lunatic, slightly off-kilter, universe where even a writer—a writer, for crying out loud—can indeed become King of the World.
Limitless Blu-ray, Video Quality
Limitless arrives on Blu-ray with a mostly spectacular looking AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. This is a film which intentionally shapes the color palette according to what's going on, and so highly desaturated elements exist side by side with color boosted sequences, and the contrast (no pun intended) between them can be very, very appealing on this Blu-ray. While the drab, dingy world of Eddie's "normal" life is cast mostly in grays, browns and drab blues, once he pops an NZT, things change dramatically, and color is immaculately presented, especially with regard to Cooper's impressively blue eyes, probably the best eyes of that color since Paul Newman's. Detail is really astounding in some of the "amped up" scenes, and the color is incredibly well saturated. There are some niggling problems with this transfer, mostly to do with very minor aliasing that crops up a couple of times on heavily patterned grille-work and the like. But overall this transfer boasts exceptional fine detail, amazingly variegated color and contrast, and solid black levels.
Limitless Blu-ray, Audio Quality
What is that sound? Limitless gets off to an amazingly robust sonic start with a loud pounding sound which thunders out of the subwoofer via a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Vestiges of conversation dart through the soundfield, causing a kind of sonic disequilibrium. What exactly is going on? That sets the film up for a nice amount of well articulated sound design which utilizes a wealth of great source cues and sound effects to up the aural ante. While there really aren't traditional action sequences per se in Limitless, there's a wealth of sonic detail throughout the film, especially in the copious locations in and around Manhattan, where everything from the roar of traffic to the sound of ice skaters in Central Park is delivered with acuity and precision. Dialogue is of course crisp and easy to understand (though one of the bad guys has a very heavy accent which is a bit hard to decipher), and the balance between all the elements is handled excellently throughout.
Limitless Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Limitless Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Limitless has a few limits it can't quite overcome. It's too brisk for its own good, with several key plot points just kind of appearing out of nowhere. It also is tonally a bit schizophrenic, one part black comedy, another part paranoid thriller. But it's to the film's credit that it still manages to be a very entertaining ride. Burger utilizes the New York locations very effectively (much more effectively than The Adjustment Bureau, actually) and Cooper, while as slack-jawed and amiable as ever, gives a decent enough performance to reel the audience in and keep them there. This is no great masterpiece, and it's certainly no Faust, but it's a solid piece of filmcraft that delivers the goods within the confines of its limited ambitions. The video and audio elements of this Blu-ray are outstanding, and though the film has some problems, overall this is Recommended.
Limitless: Other Editions
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Limitless Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - July 19-25 - July 19, 2011
Bradley Cooper stars in this weeks biggest release, Limitless, where he plays Eddie, a lazy, unpublished writer who becomes addicted to a drug, NZT, which gives him superhuman abilities including increased awareness and concentration levels. Robert De Niro ...
• Limitless Blu-ray - May 19, 2011
Limitless, the Neil Burger directed thriller starring Bradley Cooper, has been slated for a July 19th release date. 20th Century Fox has announced that the Blu-ray will feature an unrated extended cut of the film as well as an alternate ending and additional special ...
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