The storyline itself is very interesting. (Had this film been made when the rights were bought 2003, it would have most likely made a much bigger impact as the prescribed drugs epidemic was really getting talked about then). The film is well shot, executed, visually very pleasing and features very strong performances from an excellent cast even with the slightly weak script.
Adapted by Leslie Dixon (of ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ and ‘Hairspray’ fame) from Alan Glynn’s 2001 novel The Dark Fields, Limitless revolves around a black-market pill that instantaneously unlocks the full potential of the user’s brain, effectively making their IQ higher than that of Albert Einstein. Codenamed NTZ, this wonder drug is what transforms Eddie (a very convincing Bradley Cooper) from a dead, down on his luck novelist (who has yet to scribe a single word) into a virtuoso writer, musician, politician, socialite and stockbroker almost overnight. Simultaneously Eddie gets back with his ex-girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) and lands a life-changing meeting with energy mogul Carl (a role too plain for the brilliant Robert De Niro).
This little pill makes quite an impact. Suddenly all Eddie’s memory banks are firing. He can recall everything he’s ever read. He’s uncommonly lucid and articulate. Eddie then switches his attentions to finance and the stock market (which he masters within a few days). But, as with all good thrillers, it’s not too long before things begin to go pear shaped for him.
He quickly starts to up the dose of these pills without thinking of the consequences, which causes blackouts, sickness and memory loss. To make things worse, he gets wrapped up in a murder. But as things start going downhill for Eddie, the movie starts to go down with him.
Flashy subplots overshadow some of the stronger angles of the story: He gets involved with a gang, the police start hounding him and he is suspected of murder. These are perhaps only attempts to add some commercial elements to the film and meanwhile the potentially fruitful plot elements such as Eddie’s newfound relationship with Lindy and his confrontation with an ex-wife (a super and under used Anna Friel), who suffers from the after-effects of prolonged NZT use, get tossed aside.
The audience may find it hard to swallow the notion that the mentally-enhanced Eddie would make so many fundamentally stupid judgment calls: the scary gangster he takes a loan from and forgets to repay, for example. Not forgetting the cavalier way he knocks back his limited supply of pills without ever investigating what goes into them or how he might reproduce it until he’s down to his last one.
Despite all this the film is very enjoyable and has a sharp edginess that makes it stand out from other thrillers. The ending is chilling and adds a dept to the storyline.
During a Q&A with Dark Fields author Alan Gylnn; he says he was pleased with the adaptation of his novel. “ Overall, it was a faithful adaptation. About 1/3 of the script is very similar to what goes on in the book and then characters and so on are changed around.” There are some substantial changes in character. Abby Cornish’s role is not in the book and De Niro part is two characters combined.
He says despite initial difficulties – “every line was questioned at one point” – he was kept in the loop throughout the script writing process thanks to scriptwriter Dixon buying the rights to the film: “it is very unusual for the author to be in the loop throughout the process so I was very lucky.”
He says he would’ve liked to see one or two things done differently in the film. “I would have liked to see more development of Melissa (Friel). A lot of scenes with Anna were shot but never used which was a shame as she was sort of the female intelligent in the book. There was more action than I would have liked too, I felt some of the scenes were very generic.”
I finish up by asking is any of the book autobiographical? “It’s autobiographical up to the point were he discovers the pill. I didn’t have that kind of help in getting published!”