Movie Review: Limitless

Superb science fiction for Humanity+ __ 8/10
Review by Brian Wright

Eddie Morra: [at a party] … Well sure, you’d get a short-term spike, but wouldn’t that rapid expansion devalue the stock completely in two years?
Kevin Doyle: No, ’cause there are safeguards!
Eddie Morra: Against aggressive overexpansion? There aren’t because there are no safeguards in human nature. We’re wired to overreach. Look at history, all the countries that have ever ruled the world – Portugal, with its big, massive navy… All they’ve got now are salt cods and cheap condoms.
[crowd laughs]
Eddie Morra: And the Brits? Now they’re just sitting in their dank little island, fussing over their suits. No one’s stopping and thinking, ‘Hey, we’re doing pretty well. We got France, we got Poland, we got a big Swiss bank account… You know what? Let’s not invade Russia in the winter, let’s go home, let’s pop a beer and let’s live off the interest.’

Directed by Neil Burger
Screenplay by Leslie Dixon
Novel by Alan Glynn

Bradley Cooper … Eddie Morra
Robert De Niro … Carl Van Loon
Abbie Cornish … Lindy
Andrew Howard … Gennady
Anna Friel … Melissa
Johnny Whitworth … Vernon
Tomas Arana … Man in Tan Coat
Robert John Burke … Pierce
Darren Goldstein … Kevin Doyle

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Great little movie that can lead to mountains of discussion regarding human enhancement, especially cognitive or mental prowess. Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer living in New York City, on a downhill spiral of alcohol and self-esteem issues. The writing and directing—not to mention the sets, filming, and acting—do a fabulous job of creating Eddie Morra the one-more-rejection-away-from-street-person. The average viewer, I feel, is drawn to this friendly down-and-outer grasping at straws.

Through a spooky set of circumstances, Eddie runs into Vernon, brother of his ex-wife, who happens to be in town and decides to look in. Vernon is into the shady underground and has coincidentally got his hands on a small supply of mind-altering substance illegal and secret, not fully developed, known as NZT-48. Yada yada yada… Eddie inadvertently pops a pill. And his life will never be the same again. Indeed, the remainder of the movie is a saga on the psychological effects and sociological effects of one man taking a drug that gives him a four-digit IQ.

As Vernon remarks:

You know how they say we can only access 20% of our brain?
[Vernon points out the NZT pill on the table]
This lets you access all of it. .

And then some. Tripping will never be the same. The filmmakers create so skillfully what it might be like to immediately put one’s ordinary impulse-drive consciousness into warp drive: from the insatiable hunger for knowledge to the biological corollaries of having a neverending supply of energy to put into effect that incredible knowledge. The actor Bradley Cooper is perfect here, the change from his former distressed self to the superman of self-confidence and capability he handles brilliantly. Indeed, the whole team makes his enhanced world so real one is envious: NZT isn’t just a smart drug, it’s a Master of the Universe drug.

Yet with a difference. Eddie goes more for creative power than for political power. It happens his NZT supply issues are resolved at the beginning, but as an illegal drug, its market is perverse and Eddie is obliged to hook up with some very menacing sorts. The effects of a pill wear off after a few days, and we learn later that withdrawal symptoms are potentially glum. [The pharmaceutical company who produced the pill had not resolved the side effects or other down sides, apparently NZT was still being refined when the research was aborted. A considerable amount of tension and suspense in the story derive from various forces trying to access and/or corner the supply of what does exist… and even make more.]

No need to go further into the Eddie Morra tale except to state that it’s absolutely fascinating—he knows everything and wants to do everything, eventually getting into economics and the stock market (where he runs into kingpin Carl van Loon (Robert DeNiro)—and more than a little enticing. Though it’s scary because of the (real) criminal element hanging around, you wonder as a guy what it would be like to become so consciousness-enhanced, to use that newfound power to achieve much more than an ordinary life. Babes, yachts, private jets, ocean villas, a magnificent array of toys and widgets. It’s all splendiferous, and the special effects are truly special… an extremely entertaining and action-packed movie.

When I mention in the above subtitle that this film is superb scifi for the Humanity+ sect, I’m actually referring to an organization, which is part of the life-enhancement, life-extension, man-into-superman crowd of humanity-regular. A large number of people, increasing geometrically no doubt, have reached the threshold of seeing our current biological form as no longer set in stone. By virtue of technology we can now see the end of human suffering, the end of aging, and eventually we may individually and collectively transcend the human biological form entirely—if we, individually, want to. Purely voluntary. It doesn’t take an extraordinary imagination to see “Intelligence” spreading its wings and populating the universe much as matter and energy do now.[1]

The vast majority of what passes as science fiction in the general culture, especially those old films from the 1950s and 60s, has a running principle that whenever someone diddles with Mother Nature, someone gets his rear end kicked. I won’t spoil anything by giving the resolution of Limitless, except to state that it’s refreshing from the perspective of those of us who seek to improve ourselves mentally and physically… through genetics, regenerative medicine, life enhancement technologies, even drugs. We already have smart drugs, which are less drugs more nutrients. I take a product from Life Extension called Cognitex, and there is no question it improves my memory and mental processing speed.

The sad fact is that the 0.1% powers that be (PTB) fear more than anything that individuals in the 99.9% will have material wealth and essential immortality. Wealth and health for the teeming masses is not what the PTB has in mind, and septuagenarians galore in the halls of power waddle hither and yon trying to bottle up and thwart our Humanity+ potential, from denying supplements to trying to crush alternative medicine. A movie like Limitless shows that the ancien regime truly is on its last legs and pissing up a rope: those of us with the desire are going to cross that bridge from humanity to H+ relatively soon. Not without hazard, but certainly with major benefit. The movie provides a sweet foretaste.

[1] Ref. Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near.

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