Though it’s fun to imagine what life would be like if you had unlimited potential. Surely, you’d be rich, powerful, successful, and adored on all sides, right? Right?
Eddie (Bradley Cooper) learns the hard way that this is not the case in Limitless. Eddie’s a writer, down on his luck, who runs into his ex-wife’s brother one day on the streets of Manhattan. (For only in Manhattan, you see, does this sort of thing happen.) Eddie can barely make rent, is at a creative dead end with his book, and admits that he exudes that je ne sais homeless. Luckily, ex-wife’s brother has been doing some pharmaceutical consulting of late, and has Just The Thing for Eddie. Take this one little pill, he tells Eddie, and all will be well.
Because the pill is clear (the best color), because it has a cool name (NZT), and because he is running out of options, Eddie takes the pill.
And oh DANG.
Suddenly, the world is his oyster. We viewers are clued into this by sudden color saturation. Bleak greys and blues give way to yellows and greens. Eddie's brain, previously only 10-20% used*, starts running at 100%. He realizes that he’s been given a fresh start, and immediately cleans up his apartment, his self, and his life. He can instantly learn languages, recognize patterns, and just KNOW things. He’s like an idiot savant for every single subject. Life isn’t good, it’s great.
Then he wakes up the next morning and we’re back to greys and blues. The pill has worn off. Obviously, he needs more. Needs more of the good stuff. The good stuff, yeah. Gotta get more pills.
Things start to go downhill at this point, as ex-wife’s brother ends up dead, and other people start wanting pills, and side effects manifest. It’s a twisty-turny ride until the very end, and you’re not sure whether Eddie is going to end up fabulously wealthy or utterly dead.
We’ve all probably wished for a magic pill at those times when we’re feeling uninspired and generally blah. Limitless shows us that pharmaceuticals are not the answer.
(It turns out Robert De Niro and/or politics may be the answer, but I’ll leave that to you to decide. If you get the DVD, check out the alternate ending and help me figure out what it means.)
* That we only use a fraction of our brains is actually a myth. While we only use some of our brains at a time, we use all of them at some point. One bit lights up when you’re scared, another when you’re happy, and so on. It’s not as if running all parts of your brain at once would turn you super-smart.