Limitless is a 2011 American science fiction film|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.

Plot Edit

Eddie Morra is a struggling author with writer's block. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress, breaks up with him. Eddie 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. His interpersonal skills are also deeply refined. He cleans his apartment obsessively in a few hours and begins writing 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 for more NZT-48, but while he is running errands for him, Vernon is murdered. 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 cleaning up his life.

Testing his analytical skills on the stock market, Eddie quickly begins making large returns on small investments. He borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady, and is 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. 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 starts experiencing hallucinations and a sense of time skipping forward. When these effects cease, 18 hours have passed which he cannot remember.

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 officeEdit

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 responseEdit

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-offEdit

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]


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