Bradley Cooper is becoming an actor to keep your eye on. He has already proved that he can hold his own amongst an ensemble of very cool actors like Liam Neeson and Sharlto Copley in The A-Team and to a lesser extent, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms in the Hangover. I hadn’t really seen him hold his own and carry a film himself, until I watched Limitless.
Bradley Cooper does a great job of carrying this film. He has shown he isn’t a lightweight, good-looking, comedy actor but someone who can play a part that requires a performance which is slightly more dramatic. Limitless tests him, from playing a down on his luck writer at the beginning to a cocky, arrogant drug enhanced success for majority of the film. He even has to play addicted and desperate at points too. We know Cooper would be able to handle the physical demands because we’ve seen him do it in both The A-Team and Hangover but its refreshing to find he can also act too.
Cooper chose a great film to show off those abilities. Limitless is intriguing and engrossing from the very beginning. It’s not as straight forward a story as I thought it would be. I imagined Cooper’s character would gain knowledge and power beyond his wildest dreams, use it to gain success but go too far and we’d watch him fall but there is much more to this film than that. The story keeps you guessing and wrong-foots in many places. It’s not a confusing film but it will keep you on your toes and as the film progressed, I seriously couldn’t see where it was going or what the outcome would be.
There are lots of different variables introduced at different points to keep the film ticking along and stop it losing momentum. This can lead to some aspects of Cooper’s brain enhancing drug, and its effects, being mentioned and then kind of glossed over. It felt like there were lots of elements to this film that the makers wanted to develop but because they jammed it with so many different story arcs, lost the time they’d need. It doesn’t deteriorate from the film as the developments that are left in make sense and kept me focused and interested.
The way it’s filmed is also used to great effect. It’s not like me to comment on direction and use of effects as I don’t ever really know what I’m talking about but with Limitless, the use of colour to signify being on/off the drug and the way that thought-processes while using the drug are presented is done brilliantly. It adds another level to watching the film as you are with the character while they do the calculations and try their best to work out a solution to a problem or a way out of danger. Watching the drug take immediate effect and the results it can produce add an extra element of excitement, like a trapped superhero actually managing to get free and let loose with their powers.
The film also benefits from having a great supporting actor in Robert De Niro. In my Charlie Wilson’s War review I complained that De Niro is choosing poor roles and some border on embarrassing considering he isn’t exactly in need of work at this point in his career. Limitless is the kind of film I love to see older, experienced actors appearing in. He gets to act effortlessly in a role that doesn’t exactly require him to get to any “Raging Bull type” level of involvement. At the same time, De Niro is clearly having fun with it and if this was the kind of film he kept appearing in then I’d be satisfied.
Before I watched this film, a friend of mine told me it was a “Fight Club” type movie. Though it isn’t anywhere near as good as that, I can see what he meant. It is clever, has a pace and structure that reminded me of the Norton/Pitt movie and the ending, though not as cryptic as Fight Club, is as brilliant. I just hope nobody is thinking of making a Limitless 2!
Overall, Limitless was engrossing, clever and well worth a watch. It showed me Bradley Cooper can act and also gave me a decent Robert De Niro performance that doesn’t require him to play a gangster or embarrass himself next to Ben Stiller. If you get the opportunity, watch it, you won’t be disappointed.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)