A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sci-fi thriller based on a novel by Alan Glynn stars The Hangover's Bradley Cooper as a man who becomes addicted to a (fictional) drug that enhances users' mental powers, using it to further his own power and wealth. He becomes involved with gangsters and loan sharks, which leads to plenty of violence, including shooting, stabbing, and blood. He also sleeps with many women, and there's language (including one "f--k" and a few "s--t"s) and frequent drinking. Although the movie is rated PG-13, the message -- that drugs can help you overcome problems related to confidence and motivation -- and the lack of consequences for most of the main character's drug-fueled decisions and actions make Limitless a very iffy choice for teens.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a slovenly writer who's supposedly working on a sci-fi novel, but he can't quite motivate himself to write a single word. His girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), gets tired of it and breaks up with him. Then an old acquaintance gives him a pill called NZT that suddenly makes everything clear, boosting his concentration and knowledge to extraordinary levels. He gets hold of an entire supply of NZT and sets out to satisfy his desire for more money and power. Unfortunately, loan sharks are after him -- as are as thugs involved with the drug's illegal manufacture. Worst of all, Eddie gets mixed up with a financial wizard (Robert De Niro) who may be more dangerous than any of the others. Can Eddie ever get his life back? Does he want to?
Is it any good?
With LIMITLESS, director Neil Burger (The Lucky Ones) delivers a sci-fi thriller much like his earlier The Illusionist, but cleverer and more playful. In a way, the movie is as involving and addictive as the fictitious drug it conjures up. Burger cooks up many tricks, including a lighting scheme that visually illustrates the effects of the drug, as well as a memorable sequence depicting an 18-hour blackout that the hero experiences while on the drug.
Yes, the movie basically celebrates consequence-free behavior, but it also succeeds in tapping into a general human dissatisfaction and offering a vicarious escape (which, in a way, makes the iffiness of its messages even more questionable for teens!). Meanwhile, Burger guides Cooper through an appealing performance, and he's matched by De Niro in a snaky supporting role, as well as many other terrific turns in smaller parts. Ultimately, Limitless is a strong combination of the all-too-rare pairing of sci-fi ideas and human emotions, but it's best suited for adults.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays drug use. What are the consequences? Does that seem realistic? If a drug like NZT was real, what do you think would happen to people who took it?
How can people find confidence and motivation without the use of illegal substances?
Is the movie's violence scary or threatening? How is the violence affected by the idea that the main character is in control of everything that happens?
- In theaters: March 18, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: July 19, 2011
- Cast: Abbie Cornish, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro
- Director: Neil Burger
- Studios: Relativity Media, Rogue Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material involving a drug, violence including disturbing images, sexuality and language