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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Blockbuster Review: Limitless - 2010

After giving very negative reviews to the last two blockbusters I reviewed, I decided to write about a blockbuster that I had actually enjoyed this time; for after all I’m not a snob and can enjoy anything as long as it’s good and/or entertaining whether it be an old Kung Fu, a B movie or an enormous blockbuster.
Limitless may not be a blockbuster on par with the sheer enormity of the likes of the Harry Potter films, Avatar or the recently released Green Lantern, but it certainly was designed to be a crowd pleaser and to generate money. 
There is nothing remotely deep or intelligent about it; it is just an above average Hollywood film. However it did have some interesting ideas behind it, but as with many such films they were poorly developed and put aside for more thrilling and attention grabbing elements.
Of course the fact that De Niro had a supporting role was enough to get me interested in this film, but that interest was diminished by the fact that he hasn’t been in a good film for quite some time, that I had never seen Bradley Cooper in a film before and that on the whole the film didn’t appeal to me at all. 

But I was surprised to find that while I had many problems with the film, I still found it very enjoyable with a refreshingly intelligent idea behind it. Of course I wasn't developed as fully as it could have been, but I had expected it to be that way and was consequently not disappointed. If anything I was pleasantly surprised by the technical side of the film, which seems to have been much more thought out than the usual Hollywood blockbuster, and Bradley Cooper's performance, which while not being any particularly great, was more than adequate for the role in my opinion. 
It was overall an amusing and entertaining film, with a nice mix of some witty dialogue, mostly internal, some suspenseful scenes, a few surprises and a couple of good action scenes.

Limitless tells the tale of a down and out "writer", who has yet to actually produce any written material, who goes through the usual cliches of a luckless protagonist in films, he loses his girlfriend, has trouble with his landlord and looks like a tramp.
Fortunately for him, he comes across a shady acquaintance who is quick to offer him some NZT, a state of the art drug designed to maximise brain use. His life is immediately changed for the better in every possible way, but this new found success must surely come with some drawbacks. As it happens the drawbacks are many, including a think headed mobster, a mysterious figure who follows him, an untrustworthy boss and worst of all, the side effects of the drug itself.

Make no mistake, I don’t think this film is a great work, I wouldn’t even say it’s particularly good, but it certainly is better than average.
This is mainly due to the very imaginative techniques used behind the camera, which make for an interesting film from a visual point of view. Although some of these techniques may have been a bit obvious, such as the colour palette changing from muted blues and greens to warm and bright colours upon taking the drug, it still worked relatively well and certainly showed that the director paid attention to such things which isn’t always the case with these blockbusters.
The film overall had a very polished feel to it, no scenes really dragged on longer than they should have and it was tightly packed in order for the viewer o never get bored. I sometimes find this method of filmmaking rather annoying as it lacks room for the audience to relax and take in the film due to all the high speed editing, fancy camera work and adrenalin filled action scenes. However in Limitless this didn’t bother me much, and I think the films limited run time and continuous moving forward stopped it from meandering as it could have given the nature of its premise.

What did bother me about this film though, is not the fact that it’s a very interesting idea that is poorly developed. I had been expecting this and was thus indifferent to the results even if I still think the film could have been a lot better.
What really bothered me was the underlying nature of the film and its overall message which ultimately is the most important part of the film, far more so than the technical aspects or the acting.
While the concept of a super drug that would unlock the massive amounts of brain capacity left unused by most people was definitely intriguing, and the film itself well executed, I couldn’t help but be put off by the little details throughout the film, as well as the plotline on the whole. 
As soon as the main character starts getting into finances it all took a downward turn for me. It just seems like such an obvious attempt to impress audiences and generally be cool. With the fast cars, women, vast amounts of money, luxury suits etc... I found this all to be most offensive as was the overall finance storyline that seems to have been added in there on the assumption that it will interest everyone. But seeing a group of wealthy, suit clad business men discuss how to make more money in devious ways and generally strut around being unlikeable is not my idea of entertainment, and while I realise it probably satisfies some weird fantasy for many people, it had no effect on me other than repelling me from the film as a whole. I know this may seem a rather strong reaction, but it is the primary reason for my general dislike of these kinds of films.
The whole idea that such things are what you would do if possessed with vastly increased metal capabilities is quite offensive and while I realise that the film was probably not made for my personal enjoyment but was a general crowd pleaser and thus had to cover themes that could entertain as large an audience as possible.

This is all a terrible shame really, for in a way it felt like the strong introduction and build up, along with the considerable amount of rather suspenseful and thrilling scenes, was completely let down with the direction the film took. It tries to make up for this by its conclusion, which I have to admit was very unsatisfactory. That kind of ambiguous open ended conclusion is one better suited for other more artisticly leaning films in my opinion and I don't even think much of it in those cases so as a conclusion to Limitless it felt completely out of place.

All in all, Limitless was a film with a good idea that almost made up for it's failure to develop that idea interestingly with it's ingenious technical aspects. 

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