Limitless Information

Limitless is a 2011 thriller film directed by Neil Burger and starring Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and Robert De Niro. It is based on the 2001 novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn with the screenplay by Leslie Dixon. The film was released on March 18, 2011.


The movie starts with Edward "Eddie" Morra (Bradley Cooper), standing on the rooftop of his luxury penthouse. Someone is trying to break into his apartment, as he prepares himself to jump.

Three months earlier, Eddie is a New York City author struggling with writer's block and a looming deadline. Things get worse when his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), dumps him, after growing tired of supporting him financially while Eddie makes no progress. One day, Eddie comes across Vernon Gant (Johnny Whitworth), his ex brother-in-law. Vernon, a drug dealer, offers Eddie a nootropic drug, NZT-48, claiming that it was just approved by the FDA and that it allows the user to access 100 percent of his or her brain's capacity instead of the "usual" 20 percent. Eddie takes Vernon's card with his address and phone number, and accepts the pill and arrives home.

Eddie consumes the pill as he enters his apartment and finds the claim is true; with his heightened brain activity, all of his senses become tuned in to everything in his surrounding environment, he can recall everything he has seen and heard, he can learn exponentially faster, and he is able to outsmart and out-talk people. He completes 90 pages of the book that night, but wakes up the next day and realizes that the NZT has worn off. He turns in what he completed so far of his book, and his publisher is very pleased. Eddie goes to Vernon's apartment to get more of the drug, but sees that Vernon has been severely beaten. Vernon also admits that the drug is not FDA approved. However, Eddie agrees to be Vernon's errand-boy in exchange for more of the drug. When he returns to Vernon's apartment, Eddie finds Vernon shot dead and the apartment ransacked. He quickly finds Vernon's stash of NZT-48, a small amount of cash, and a book of addresses, which he takes before the police arrive. At the police station, Eddie talks to Melissa Gant (Anna Friel), his ex-wife (Vernon's sister), over the phone. She warns him to stay away from anything and anyone that Vernon was involved with, and that they can't contact each other.

Eddie, using NZT-48, quickly finishes the book but believes he is capable of much more with the drug. He finds the ability to identify trends in the stock market and is able to quadruple investments on a daily basis. Seeking to grow a fortune quickly, he obtains a short term loan of $100,000 from a Russian mafia loan-shark, Gennady (Andrew Howard), which he is able to turn into $2 million in a few days at a trading firm. He decides to increase his daily NZT dosage for a more powerful effect. Although he knows he has drawn media attention, he is troubled by a man in a tan coat (Tomas Arana) who appears to be stalking him. Eddie also rekindles his relationship with Lindy, impressing her with his success.

Eddie's success leads to a meeting with a powerful businessman, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), who wants Eddie's advice the next day on a proposed merger with a competitor, Hank Atwood (Richard Bekins). In celebration of this big opportunity, Eddie spends the day drinking and partying heavily. But throughout the day he also experiences short term memory loss, as he can't remember how he got to certain places. He spends time in a hotel with a blonde woman (Caroline Winberg) before ending the day on top of a bridge. Worried about having very little recollection of the past day, he quickly leaves, followed by the man in the tan coat. Eddie meets with Van Loon the next day, having not yet taken a look at the assignment nor a dose of NZT, but as they discuss it, Eddie realizes that Atwood may also be a NZT user based on his sudden rise in wealth. Just then, a news reports breaks that the woman Eddie was with the night before was found murdered. With the thought of having possibly murdered someone while under the influence of NZT, he abruptly leaves the meeting with Van Loon and vomits outside.

Worried about his sudden sicknesses, Eddie talks to Melissa, despite her previous warnings that they can't contact each other. It turns out that she was a former user of the drug, and that quitting NZT cold turkey has extreme side effects, with nausea, vomiting, headaches, which is only the beginning; even still, two years since quitting the drug has left Melissa sluggish and lazy. Afterwards, Eddie returns home but is accosted by Gennady, who demands his repayment of the loan he gave to Eddie. When Eddie's last NZT pill falls out of his pocket, Gennady takes it and consumes it, and demands more of the drug. Eddie becomes sicker, and visits Lindy at work and he tells her that he had stored a stash of the drug at her apartment and asks her to bring it over; as she does, she is followed by the man in the tan coat. Eddie convinces her to take one pill, giving her heightened awareness to injure the man and escape. Afraid of what they might become if they continue to take the drug, Lindy leaves Eddie.

Afterwards, Eddie decides to use the drug more wisely. He learns that he won't experience adverse side effect if he controls his dosage, remembers to eat, and abstains from alcohol. He continues to build his wealth, hires bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, and buys a highly secured penthouse safe-house. He pays a laboratory to try to reverse engineer NZT. Eddie aids Van Loon in the merger deal, who promises Eddie $40 million if the deal goes through. Meanwhile, Eddie is marked as a suspect in the murder case of the blonde woman he spent time with at the hotel. He hires a "ruthless" and dirty defense attorney named Morris Brandt (Ned Eisenberg) to help defend him. Eddie tries to refuse to give Gennady more of the drug, but he blackmails Eddie for more of it when he threatens to reveal to Van Loon that he's a murder suspect.

On the day of signing the merger, Atwood's wife shows up instead and announces that Atwood had fallen into a coma, but that they have every intention of signing the deal. As Eddie and Van Loon escort her back to her car, Eddie recognizes Mrs. Atwood's driver as the man in the tan coat who has been stalking him. Later, Eddie is required to participate in a line-up for the murder, while Brandt holds his custom-made jacket. Eddie is not recognized by the witness (thanks to his attorney making sure the other suspects looked similar to Eddie) and is let off as a suspect, but later he discovers that the stash of his NZT in his jacket has gone missing. When news of Atwood's coma becomes public, Eddie realizes that Brandt took his stash of NZT from his coat when he sees him on television as Atwood's attorney.

As Eddie starts withdrawals in his safehouse, Gennady and his henchmen try to break in looking for more NZT. Eddie contemplates jumping to end it all, but remembers he may have one more pill. He finds it just as the Russians break in, causing him to drop the pill into a grate. Gennady demonstrates that he has found a way to take NZT directly by injecting a solution of it into his blood by a syringe. As Gennady is about to kill him, Eddie stabs him with a hidden sharp object. Eddie resorts to drinking Gennady's blood to successfully regain his enhanced faculties. One of the henchman returns to find him and the corpse, but Eddie blinds the Russians' eyes by using a syringe needle as a blowdart. He then tricks the blinded goon into killing his sidekick by impersonating the second henchman (by learning Russian earlier, thanks to the NZT), before eventually killing the blinded Russian. Later, learning that Atwood has died, Eddie convinces the man in the tan coat of Brandt's deception, and the two recover Eddie's stash of NZT from Brandt's residence.

A year later, Eddie has remained wealthy, his book has hit the market, and he is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him, initially as a friend, but soon reveals that he has bought the company that made NZT and closed down the laboratory Eddie had hired to make it, seeking to provide Eddie with an unlimited supply in exchange for political favors later on when he becomes President. Eddie surprises Van Loon by revealing that he has been several steps ahead; not only had he hired multiple laboratories to work on NZT, but he has been able to wean himself off the drug while retaining his acute mental abilities, so he has made the effects permanent. Then he recognizes that Van Loon has a terminal heart condition and will die soon, and he escorts him back in his car. Later on, Eddie meets with Lindy in an Asian restaurant. He speaks to the waiter in Mandarin Chinese, and then smiles at Lindy.



Limitless is based on the 2001 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.

Scientifically questionable

In a comment for NBC's Today Show, regarding the scientific accuracy of the film, physics professor James Kakalios said it was plausible that medical science one day could improve intelligence, but "taking a pill and becoming a supergenius? Mmmm, that's kinda crazy. That understanding of neurochemistry far eludes us at this stage." Kakalios also said that the notion used in the film that human beings can only access 10-20% of their brains is a myth: "We use all of our brains. We don't understand a lot about how the brain works, but evolutionarily, everything in the three-pound hunk of meat on the top of your head is there for a reason."


Limitless had its world premiere in New York City on , 2011. It was released in in the United States and Canada on , 2011. It grossed a 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 , 2011.

Before the film's release, Box Office Mojo called Limitless a wild card for its box office predictability, 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.

Critical reception

Limitless received generally positive reviews from film critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 71% based on reviews from 182 critics, and reports a rating average of 6.4 out of 10. The site reported a consensus that, "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 out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 62 based on 37 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.

Varietys 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 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.

Limitless received the award for Best Thriller at the 2011 Scream Awards and is nominated for Best Science Fiction Film at the 2012 Saturn Awards.

See also

  • Intellectual giftedness
  • A Scanner Darkly (film) similar movie set in the near future, involving the fictional mind-altering Substance D
  • Charly, a 1968 American drama film also featuring increase in human intelligence
  • Flowers for Algernon, a 1958 short story, later extended into a novel of the same name, which is the basis for the movie Charly
  • Understand, a novelette published in 1991 by Ted Chiang
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a similar story of character-changing chemicals

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