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  • Writer's pictureMatteo Pascale

Film Review of Limitless


The film Limitless is a science-fiction drama directed by Neil Burger and set in the present time where the main character, Eddie Morra, (Bradley Cooper) is on a downward spiral. He is a writer who is experiencing writer’s block and has recently his girlfriend has broken up with him. He has become disheveled, his apartment is a mess, and he is anti-social not seeing people or going out. This paper will analyze two scenes that stand out as important to explore methods the director used to develop the science-fiction aspect of the film. The first scene will be the introduction and the second scene analyzed will be the one where Eddie Morra first takes the drug, NZT.


The premise of the film is set up when Eddie Morra, encounters his ex-brother-in-law who gives him a free sample of a pill that is being developed by a pharmaceutical company. The name of the drug, NZT, takes the drug and finds his brain functions at 100% rather than the 5% that humans generally can access. The character finds his world open. He can think so clearly that he can predict what will happen in the immediate future. He can foresee immediate consequences for every action. His life is a wreck, but suddenly on this drug, his thought process is overly sharp and clear. He can achieve the impossible. He learns quickly and retains what he learns.



He realizes he needs this drug to live. He gets a supply from his brother-in-law and transforms his life. He physically transforms, cuts his hair, and changes his dress, and his walk is more confident. He can access more than the most gifted human, as his I.Q. is a four-digit number.




The film is produced so that the scenes where Eddie Morra is off the drug are dark, dirty, and run down. The shots are focused downward so that the viewer sees a world that is closed and confusing. Conversely, when Eddie takes the drug, the scenes are produced with lots of light, or in expensive settings such as restaurants and luxury resorts. The film rushes forward when he takes the drug, and speeds through the streets of New York City.




The opening scene is narrated in first-person, Eddie Morra, who is standing on the ledge of his balcony, high above the city. The camera pans upward as his voice begins to narrate the story. The viewer does not know who is narrating. It is night, and as the camera pans up upward and zooms in and out of apartments in the building where you see dead bodies on the floor, and you hear the battering on the door with a heavy instrument. The camera then zooms to a person standing on the ledge of a balcony. Eddie Morra is looking down toward the street and the camera then zooms downward toward the street, and the narration takes the viewer back to the beginning of the story. The speed of the camera moves quickly through the introduction and builds suspense by starting the story at the end, where his life is endangered to the point of having to choose between being murdered or committing suicide.


The film flashbacks to when he was an unemployed writer experiencing writer’s block. His hair is long, and he is living in an apartment that is a complete mess. The speed of the shots slows down and the dark lighting and setting create a slower atmosphere of failure and depression. He has trouble connecting with people around him, and no one understands him. The conversations in his head are disembodied and he responds clearly. He runs into his ex-brother-in-law who gives him the drug. When he takes the drug when he is in a stairwell. The lighting changes from grey and black to yellow and orange. The colors pop and the director used a hue saturation. The music is an electronic trance, and it speeds up and is composed by Brian Eno and Trent Reznor. The effect is to transform the character’s POV.



Limitless (2011) “Time Skipping Scene” directed by Neil Burger


Eddie Morra begins to realize something is different. He returns home to find his apartment is a disgusting pigsty The director uses a green screen to impose multiple images of Eddie Morra cleaning his apartment to create the effect of his being uber-efficient. As he cleans, the character multiplies to show how this drug activates the mind and body. The scene itself is filmed in third-person preference with outer body POV It is lit in a dark, yellow-orange tint to create a dream-like sequence. The end of the scene shows his apartment Is spotless and light begins to enter the apartment.


The story shifts to his manuscript and he finishes his book and hands in his manuscript. With the money he makes, he begins to trade online and soon makes millions. The overnight success of Eddie Morra in the financial market draws attention, and he becomes involved with a big investor, Carl Look, (Robert DeNiro). Eddie Morra becomes involved in financial markets and begins making huge sums of money. He meets powerful men and eventually becomes found out that he takes a pill that produces mental acuity. An element of danger is present throughout the film. Once Eddie Morra begins making money in finance, he attracts dangerous people who are interested in his ability to predict investments. He begins to be followed and there is an assassination attempt.



The film is edited to create speed and suspense, and expose the corruption of the finance world, pharmaceutical business, and politicians. In the long run, his hyper-intelligence, rather than solving his problems, creates bigger problems for him, as he nearly loses his life. His greed represents not only his individual greed but societal values, where super-intelligence is used to make money, not solve social and world problems. The end of the film is chaotic, and he manages to fight off his would-be assassins. In the end, it is unclear if he is off the drug or not, but he manufactures the pill in how own warehouses. The director’s use of special effects, speed, lighting, and music created a visually exciting film that captures the promise of what science can offer humanity in the future.


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