Limitless (film)

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Limitless Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Neil Burger
Produced by Leslie Dixon
Scott Kroopf
Ryan Kavanaugh
Screenplay by Leslie Dixon
Based on The Dark Fields
by Alan Glynn
Starring Bradley Cooper
Abbie Cornish
Robert De Niro
Andrew Howard
Anna Friel
Johnny Whitworth
Tomas Arana
Music by Paul Leonard-Morgan
Cinematography Jo Willems
Edited by Naomi Geraghty
Tracy Adams
Virgin Produced
Many Rivers Productions
Boy of the Year
Intermedia Film
Distributed by Relativity
Release dates
  • March 8, 2011 (2011-03-08) (New York premiere)
  • March 18, 2011 (2011-03-18) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $27 million[1]
Box office $161.8 million[2]

Limitless is a 2011 American thriller film directed by Neil Burger. Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and Robert De Niro. The events portrayed in the film follow Edward Morra, a struggling writer, who is introduced to a nootropic drug called NZT-48, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and vastly improve his lifestyle.

Limitless was released on March 18, 2011, and became a box office success after grossing over $161 million on a budget of $27 million. A television series of the same name covering events that take place after the film debuted on September 22, 2015, but was cancelled after one season.


Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a struggling author suffering from writer's block, living in New York, is stressed by an approaching deadline. His girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish), frustrated with his lack of progress and financial dependence, breaks up with him. Later, Eddie happens to run into Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), the estranged brother of Eddie's ex-wife, Melissa (Anna Friel). Vernon is involved with a shadowy, unidentified pharmaceutical company and gives Eddie a sample of a new "smart drug", NZT-48. Returning to his apartment, Eddie chooses to try out the drug and takes it seconds before being confronted by his landlord's wife due to his inability to pay the rent. As the drug begins to take effect, Eddie discovers he now has perfect recall and the ability to cross-correlate the most trivial and fleeting of past information and experiences into useful information, using it along with advanced powers of deduction to help her with a law school paper and seduce her. Entering his apartment, he feels immensely focused and begins to clean his apartment almost obsessively in a few hours. Struck with sudden inspiration, he begins writing a brand new book.

The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings the pages he wrote the night before to his publisher. Once he returns to his apartment, his publisher has left him several messages praising his writing. Eddie seeks out Vernon in an attempt to get more. But while Eddie is out running errands for him, Vernon is murdered. Eddie calls the police and then discovers Vernon's NZT-48 supply, as well as a ledger and a stash of money, just before they arrive. After giving a statement at the precinct, Eddie returns home and begins ingesting the drug daily. With the help of the drug's amazing effects, Eddie spends a few weeks cleaning up his life—finishing his book, getting fit, dressing better and making friends with a group of young jet-setters. They take him on vacation to Europe where Eddie experiments further with his new-found abilities, being able to instantaneously learn and analyze new information such as being fluent in new languages after only hearing a few words, doing advanced mathematics in order to gamble, and having increased hand-eye coordination. The only apparent side effects are a peculiar bluish-green hue in his irises and a constant need to keep moving forward, as well as increased confidence and ambition.

Testing his analytical skills on the stock market with Vernon's stash of money, Eddie quickly makes large returns on small investments. Realizing he requires more capital, he borrows 100K from a Russian loan shark, Gennady (Andrew Howard), and is hired at a brokerage firm thanks to one of his new acquaintances, where he quickly parlays this capital into two million dollars plus. He further increases his NZT-48 dosage and begins to rekindle his relationship with Lindy.

Eddie's prodigious success leads to a meeting with a finance tycoon, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro). He tests Eddie by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood's (Richard Bekins) company. Walking through Manhattan after the meeting, Eddie starts experiencing hallucinations and the sense of time skipping forward, noticing that several hours have suddenly passed of which he has no memory. As this effect recurs over the course of the day and night he finds himself at a nightclub, a hotel party, in a hotel room with a blonde woman (Caroline Winberg), and in a subway station where he easily subdues several muggers who attack him (thanks to the effects of NZT-48). When this series of blackouts finally ends, he finds himself standing on the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn, 18 hours having passed for which he cannot account. He slowly limps home. During another meeting with Van Loon, Eddie sees a news report detailing the murder of the blonde woman whom he had presumably slept with, but he is unable to remember whether or not he was the killer. Running out of the meeting, he vomits and becomes severely ill.

Eddie goes through Vernon's ledger and discovers that everyone taking NZT-48 is either in the hospital or dead. When he calls another number, a man in a tan trench coat (Tomas Arana) is revealed to have been to be following him when he answers the phone from behind Eddie, and gives chase before Eddie loses him. Eddie meets with Melissa and discovers that she too had been on NZT-48. She informs him that when she attempted to stop taking it, she had experienced a severe mental rebound effect, as well as a limp like Eddie, and that there are several people who have died after abruptly quitting. On his way home, Eddie is accosted by Gennady, who takes Eddie's last NZT-48 pill. Eddie visits Lindy and asks her to retrieve his backup stash, which he had hidden in her apartment. On her way back, she is followed by the man in the trench coat. He corners Lindy in a park and kills two unfortunate men who try to protect her. Eddie tells her to take one of the pills. This enables her to escape, and she returns the stash to Eddie.

Eddie experiments with the drug and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He continues to earn money on the stock exchange and hires bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who threatens him in an attempt to obtain more NZT-48. He buys an armored penthouse and hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse engineer the mysterious drug. For his part in Carl Van Loon's merger, Eddie is promised forty million dollars, and he hires an attorney (Ned Eisenberg) to help keep the police from investigating the deaths of both Vernon and the woman.

On the day of the merger, Atwood's wife informs Van Loon that he has fallen into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood's driver as the man in the trench coat and realizes Atwood is on NZT-48. While Eddie participates in a lineup, his attorney steals Eddie's whole supply of NZT-48 from his jacket. Soon afterward, Eddie discovers that his pills are gone and begins to enter withdrawal. He also learns that his bodyguards have been killed. But the severe effects of withdrawal cause him to hurry home when Van Loon questions him about his knowledge relating to Atwood's coma. Gennady breaks into his apartment, demanding more NZT-48. He reveals that to increase the effect's potency and duration he has been dissolving it in water and injecting it intravenously. Eddie stabs Gennady and licks up some of his pooling blood for the NZT-48 it now contains. His increased mental acuity restored, Eddie kills Gennady's henchmen and escapes. He meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising that Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT-48. The two join forces and recover Eddie's stash from his attorney.

A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book (entitled "Illuminating the Dark Fields," a play on the name of the book, The Dark Fields, which the movie is based on), and is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals that he has absorbed the company that produced NZT-48 and shut down Eddie's laboratory. He offers a steady supply of the drug in return for power when Eddie eventually and inevitably becomes President of the United States. Eddie implies that he has had multiple laboratories working on the drug for the purposes of reverse engineering it, as well as being able to eliminate all of the negative side-effects. He states that he has found a way to wean himself completely off of the drug without losing any of his enhanced abilities. He turns down Van Loon and sends him on his way. He meets Lindy at a Chinese restaurant for lunch, where his Chinese language skills with the waiter indicate that, whether he still relies on the drug or not, his enhanced abilities are still completely intact.[citation needed]



Limitless is based on the 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.[3] 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.[4] With Universal Pictures developing the project, Shia LaBeouf was announced in April 2008 to be cast as the film's star.[3]

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.[5] Robert De Niro was cast opposite Cooper by March 2010, and The Dark Fields began filming in Philadelphia the following May.[6] Filming also took place in New York City.[4] 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.[7] By December 2010, The Dark Fields was re-titled Limitless.[8]


Limitless had its world premiere in New York City on March 8, 2011.[9] It was released in 2,756 theaters in the United States and Canada on March 18, 2011.[2]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed a $18.9 million 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.[10] Limitless was released in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2011.[11]

Before the film's release, Box Office Mojo called Limitless a "wild card", 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.[12]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Limitless has an approval rating of 70%, based on 186 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's consensus reads, "Although its script is uneven, Neil Burger directs Limitless with plenty of visual panache, and Bradley Cooper makes for a charismatic star."[13] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received a score of 59 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14]

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."[3][15]

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.[16]

Variety's 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 [audiences] 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.[17]

Limitless received the award for Best Thriller at the 2011 Scream Awards and was nominated for Best Science Fiction Film at the 2012 Saturn Awards, but lost to Rise of the Planet of the Apes.[18][19]

Limitless is also discussed in academic scholarly debates, notably on human enhancement.[20][21]

TV spin-off[edit]

Main article: Limitless (TV series)

Bradley Cooper announced in October 2013 that he, Leslie Dixon and Scott Kroopf would be executive producers of a television series based on Limitless.[22] On November 3, 2014, it was announced that CBS would be financing a pilot episode for the Limitless TV series. The pilot continued where the film left off. It was revealed that the main character would be called Brian Finch.[23]

The Limitless pilot would be directed by Marc Webb, replacing Burger who had to pull out due to a scheduling conflict with the Showtime drama pilot Billions.[24] Burger is still an executive producer, alongside Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Heather Kadin. It is based on a script by Elementary executive producer Craig Sweeny.[25] The Limitless pilot was screened/tested on June 1, 2015 with Jake McDorman, Jennifer Carpenter, Hill Harper and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio starring.[26]

Limitless officially got a series order in May of 2015.[27] The show was announced as a spin-off of the film, before confirming that Bradley Cooper would make regular appearances, reprising his role as Edward Morra. [28][29]

The TV show premiered on CBS on September 22, 2015, with a 1.9 rating.[30][31]

On May 25, 2016, Craig Sweeny announced the series had been cancelled after one season.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaufman, Amy (March 17, 2011). "Movie Projector: Matthew McConaughey, Bradley Cooper and an alien battle for No. 1". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. 
  2. ^ a b "Limitless (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Siegel, Tatiana (April 13, 2008). "Shia LaBeouf visits 'Dark Fields'". Variety. 
  4. ^ a b Macaulay, Scott (Winter 2011). "Possible Side Effects". Filmmaker. 
  5. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (November 5, 2009). "Bradley Cooper 'Fields' film offer". Variety. 
  6. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (March 3, 2010). "De Niro to star in 'Fields'". Variety. 
  7. ^ Miller, Daniel (March 11, 2011). "How Maserati Landed Spots in 'Limitless' and 'Entourage' for Free". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  8. ^ Puente, Maria (December 17, 2010). "First look: 'Limitless' power comes in the form of a pill". USA Today. 
  9. ^ Schaefer, Stephen (March 9, 2011). "'Limitless' bow reaches full potential". Variety. 
  10. ^ McClintock, Pamela (March 18, 2011). "Friday Box Office: 'Limitless' Pulls Ahead of Crowded Field". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  11. ^ "New Limitless UK Posters". Empire. February 21, 2011. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  12. ^ Subers, Ray (March 2, 2011). "March 2011 Preview". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Limitless Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Limitless". Metacritic. Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Limitless". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  16. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (March 15, 2011). "Limitless: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  17. ^ Koehler, Robert (March 14, 2011). "Film Reviews: Limitless". Variety. 
  18. ^ Associated Press (2011-10-16). "Pee Wee, Potter, Vader honored at Scream Awards". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  19. ^ Nominations for the 38th Annual Saturn Awards,, February 29, 2012.
  20. ^ Zwart H. (2014) Limitless as a neuro-pharmaceutical experiment and as a Daseinsanalyse: on the use of fiction in preparatory debates on cognitive enhancement. Medicine, Health Care & Philosophy: a European Journal. 17 (1) 29-38.
  21. ^ Zwart, H. (2015) A new lease on life: A lacanian analysis of cognitive enhancement cinema. In: Hauskeller M., Philbeck T., Carbonell C. (eds.) Handbook Posthumanism in Film and Television. Palgrave / MacMillan, 214-224.
  22. ^ "Bradley Cooper Producing "Limitless" TV Series - News - Dark Horizons". 
  23. ^ "CBS green-lights Limitless TV series pilot, picks up where the movie ends - News -". @geekdotcom. 
  24. ^ Nellie Andreeva. "'Amazing Spider-Man' Director Marc Webb To Helm 'Limitless CBS Pilot - Deadline". Deadline. 
  25. ^ Mansoor. "A 'Limitless' sequel is happening...on TV - Nerdacy". 
  26. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 8, 2015). "'Limitless', 'Rush Hour', 'Criminal Minds' Spinoff, 'Code', 'Life' Among CBS Orders". Deadline. 
  27. ^ Nellie Andreeva. "'Limitless', 'Rush Hour', 'Criminal Minds' Spinoff Among CBS Series Orders - Deadline". Deadline. 
  28. ^ "Bradley Cooper joins CBS' 'Limitless' in recurring role". Entertainment Weekly's 
  29. ^ Nellie Andreeva. "Bradley Cooper To Recur On 'Limitless' On CBS - Deadline". Deadline. 
  30. ^ Tyler McCarthy (22 September 2015). "'Limitless' TV Series Premiere: 4 Things To Know About The Sequel To The Bradley Cooper Movie". International Business Times. 
  31. ^ Rick Kissell (6 October 2015). "Weekly Ratings: 'Blindspot,' 'Quantico,' 'Limitless' Fall's Most Impressive New Shows". Variety. 
  32. ^ Wagmeister, Elizabeth (May 25, 2016). "'Limitless' Showrunner Confirms CBS Cancellation". Variety. Retrieved May 26, 2016. 
  33. ^ "The LOCUS Index to SF Awards". 

External links[edit]