Most everyone has fantasized about what it would be like to tap into their full potential--the idea that if we could just organize and compartmentalize all of the information we've accumulated over the years, our capacity for greatness would be, that's right, limitless. This insight into human mediocrity is explored with an inventive slant perhaps not seen since Alfonso Cuaron's 2006 film Children of Men. The key to self-amelioration is, of course, contingent upon the consumption of a pharmaceutical called NZT-48 (a name that hardly seems fitting considering what it does to the brain; they should have dubbed it something like Receptor Ritalin or Brain Orgasm--you know, an epithet with more of a marketing kick).
Penned by one of the few well-paid female screenwriters, Leslie Dixon (appreciated for writing Overboard, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Pay It Forward, maligned for writing That Old Feeling, The Next Best Thing, and the latest version of Hairspray), Limitless has a distinctly masculine voice. The first and second acts of the script are what makes this particular Dixon script so riveting. Opening on Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper, who has come quite a long way from his bit roles in shows like Sex and the City and Miss Match) contemplating jumping off the balcony of his building, director Neil Burger takes us back to how Eddie arrived at this point, commencing at his bedraggled phase before NZT, artfully wielding voiceover dialogue that includes, "Who else would look like this except a homeless person or a drug addict? A writer."
Unable to start his novel, which he has already received an advance for, Eddie can't even take comfort in having someone to commiserate with as his girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), breaks up with him for being unmotivated and unsuccessful. As chance would have it, Eddie runs into his former brother-in-law, Vernon Gant, on the street. When Vernon invites Eddie to have a drink, Eddie reluctantly accepts, in spite of not being beholden to him considering how brief his marriage was to Melissa (Anna Friel), his free-spirited sister.
It is over this drink at 2 o' clock in the afternoon (bless New York for understanding alcoholic needs and setting bar hours accordingly) that Vernon introduces Eddie to NZT. Eddie is at first skeptical, not even wanting to take the silvery pill, but Vernon tells him not to be ungrateful as the sale price for the drug is eight hundred dollars. On the way back to his apartment, Eddie consumes the pill, noting, "It's not as though things could get any worse." And, for awhile, they don't--the pill acting as a magical agent for everything Eddie wants to accomplish, including writing the first ninety pages of his novel.
The only issue is, now Eddie can't seem to write without it, thus he goes to Vernon's apartment to ask for more. Vernon, who has recently had the shit beaten out of him, agrees to give Eddie another fix if he fetches his dry cleaning and some breakfast. When Eddie returns from his errands, he finds Vernon's apartment has been completely torn apart and that Vernon himself has been murdered. Flummoxed, Eddie calls the police. As he waits for them, he realizes that the person who trashed the apartment must have been looking for the NZT. It is then that he performs his own search, finding the golden ticket in the oven.
Once Eddie truly examines how much more he could be doing with the power of this drug, he transitions to the stock market. Turning twelve thousand dollars into two million within the span of days, Eddie gains the attention of Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), the head of a thriving energy company. Suddenly, at the height of his success, Eddie comes to find that he can't remember the last eighteen hours of his life. He also begins to develop headaches and a general inability to concentrate. Now, you might think this isn't going to turn out well, but it unfailingly does (after all, it is a Relativity Media backed movie), making the third act probably the most unenjoyable. Apart from that, the only other little hiccup in the movie is the fact that Eddie totally abandons his writing ambitions. For anyone who has ever aspired to be a writer, you are surely aware that this is a need that cannot be repressed.