Limitless (film)

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Limitless Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNeil Burger
Produced by
Screenplay byLeslie Dixon
Based onThe Dark Fields
by Alan Glynn
Music byPaul Leonard-Morgan
CinematographyJo Willems
Edited by
Distributed byRelativity
Release date
  • March 8, 2011 (2011-03-08) (New York City)
  • March 18, 2011 (2011-03-18) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$27 million[1]
Box office$161.8 million[2]

Limitless is a 2011 American science fiction thriller film directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel. The film follows 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, 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 is a struggling author living in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress on his book contract, breaks up with him. Eddie later encounters Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, who gives Eddie a sample of a new nootropic called NZT-48. Returning to his apartment, Eddie takes the drug and discovers he now has perfect recollection of everything he has ever read and has refined his interpersonal skills. He utilizes his new power to help his landlord's wife finish her law school essay and has sex with her. He obsessively cleans his apartment in a few hours and makes significant progress on his book.

The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings the pages he wrote to his publisher, who praises them. Eddie seeks out Vernon to purchase more NZT-48 but while he is running errands for him Vernon is murdered by an unknown party that was apparently searching for the drug. Eddie locates Vernon's NZT-48 supply and begins ingesting the drug daily. With the help of the drug's effects, Eddie spends a few weeks improving his lifestyle. He cleans up his appearance, finishes his book, and shifts his social circle to include the rich and powerful. While enjoying his new life, Eddie has an epiphany to focus his talent on investing.

Testing his analytical skills on the stock market, Eddie quickly begins making large returns on small investments. Realizing the potential, Eddie wants to increase his profits even faster with a loan but knowing a bank would not finance him he borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady. He is then hired at a brokerage firm, where he parlays this capital into over two million dollars in just a few weeks. He also resumes his relationship with Lindy. During this time Eddie experiences what he refers to as a "time skip", which are momentary lapses in Eddie's memory in which he seems to skip forward in time. Eddie's success leads to a meeting with finance tycoon Carl Van Loon, who tests him by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood's company. After the meeting, Eddie experiences another "time skip", this one lasting 18 hours with him skipping from multiple parties.

Eddie goes through Vernon's ledger and learns that everyone taking NZT-48 is either in the hospital or dead. A man in a trench coat is revealed to have been following him. Eddie meets with Melissa, who informs him that she too had been on NZT-48, and that when she attempted to stop taking it she experienced a severe mental and physical rebound effect. Gennady later catches Eddie and demands the money be paid back with interest immediately. He then discovers and ingests Eddie's NZT-48, after which he begins using Eddie as his source for the drug.

Desperate for a pill after Gennady takes his last dose on hand, he asks Lindy to retrieve his stash from her apartment. While bringing the pills to Eddie, she notices the man in the trench coat following her. She calls Eddie for help and he encourages her to take one of the pills, which empowers her to escape. Lindy says she cannot be with him while he is on the drug because it makes him a different person.

Eddie experiments with NZT-48 and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse engineer NZT-48, an attorney to keep the police from investigating Vernon's death, and two bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who is threatening him to obtain more NZT-48.

On the day of the merger, Atwood's wife informs Van Loon that Atwood 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 police lineup, his attorney steals Eddie's whole supply of NZT-48 from his jacket. Soon afterward, Eddie enters withdrawal, and hurries home after Van Loon questions him about Atwood's coma. Gennady breaks into Eddie's apartment, demanding more NZT-48, but Eddie kills him and his henchmen and escapes. Eddie meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising that Atwood had employed the man to locate more NZT-48. Once Atwood dies, they recover Eddie's stash from his attorney.

A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book, 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, offering Eddie a continued supply of the drug in exchange for becoming his personal lobbyist. However, Eddie tells Van Loon that he has already perfected the drug and weaned himself off it, retaining his abilities with none of the side effects. He leaves and meets Lindy at a Chinese restaurant for lunch, where he orders in fluent Mandarin, leaving it unclear as to whether or not Eddie actually weaned himself off NZT-48, or if he bluffed Van Loon and still needs it.



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 69% based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's critical 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 had been discussed in academic scholarly debates, notably on human enhancement.[20][21]

TV spin-off[edit]

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 screentested 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 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 February 13, 2018.
  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 Archived 2012-02-29 at WebCite,, 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". Archived from the original on 2015-06-18.

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