Film Review: Limitless

Limitless features a pill that can open up the brain’s full capacity. Rather than offer enlightenment, the film instead offers pure entertainment. This is by no means a bad thing.

Eddie Morra is a struggling writer who lacks motivation. When a face from the past offers him a mysterious pill which will allow him to become the best version of himself, Eddie takes it. Eddie sees an immediate improvement to his capabilities, but things aren’t so rosy when he realises he is being followed…

Limitless is an enjoyable action thriller that combines the right amount of action, suspense and drama. The film moves at a good pace; it never really drags or goes off on a tangent. It is not obvious how Limitless will conclude. The film retains enough mystery to make the ending unpredictable. Twists in the film are subtle rather than defining, and as a result are more effective than many films that use the shock twist device.

The idea of a pill that could expeditiously improve cognition to an uncharted degree is a very interesting concept. Although the film can certainly be classified as science fiction, it does not really explain how the pill was formulated. This lack of rationale is not a problem as the story is really about Eddie, and what he does with his newfound power. The choices the protagonist makes are personal rather than what could be seen as more universal decisions. It is this that makes the character interesting; he does not necessarily plump for the sensible or considered option.

The cinematography and editing in Limitless are superb. The film has a very individual look to it; the stretching through the landscapes and locations is quite unusual. Director Neil Burger appears keen on using the visual to convey the mindset. The multiple Eddies indicate the speed at which his mind is working, just as the zooming through locations suggests how muddled the character has become. Effects throughout the film are good.

Bradley Cooper is a fantastic lead in Limitless. More often found in comedies, Cooper is just as adept in this action thriller. Hopefully his performance here will lead to more challenging roles for the actor. Robert De Niro is capable as ever in a small role, while Anna Friel looks very unlike herself as Eddie’s former wife Melissa.

Limitless is a highly entertaining film that should satisfy a wide demographic. It is certainly one of the better recent action thrillers.

Film Review: London Boulevard

If Richard Curtis made gangster movies, they would probably be a bit like London Boulevard. The film reeks of artificiality, and the main characters are less than engaging.

Just released from prison, Mitchell intends to go straight after receiving a job offer from a reclusive but beautiful female celebrity. His friends have other things in mind, however. Mitchell is reluctantly dragged into the London underworld by a powerful gangster, but at the same time is getting to know Charlotte better…

Directed and written by William Monahan, based on Ken Bruen’s novel, London Boulevard strives to be a great British gangster film. While the story of a reformed criminal struggling to juggle his past and future is adequate (although it offers little in originality), the film lacks compelling characters. There are some amusing characters, but Mitchell is not engrossing enough to carry the film.

Ray Winstone’s Gant is a caricature East-End gangster; at times it feels like he is parodying some of his previous roles. Charlotte’s self-obsession does not make her the most appealing love interest, while there is a lack of intrigue to Mitchell. Some of the minor characters are entertaining, nonetheless. Mitchell’s friend Billy is the source of amusement, while Jordan is deliciously over the top, thanks to a great performance from David Thewlis.

London Boulevard thinks it’s cooler than it actually is, an aspect that grates increasingly as the film goes on. Despite the contemporary setting, there is very much a ‘London in the swinging sixties’ feel, generated by the music and the dated archetypes. With its gratuitous swearing and violence, it seems that Monahan aimed to make a classic gangster film, but the result appears artificial. London Boulevard is clearly a film about London from a non-Londoner. It’s romanticised depiction of the city is visually faithful, yet the atmosphere rings hollow.

Colin Farrell gives a decent performance, but his London accent is distractingly patchy. Kiera Knightly does a good job of playing herself – not much of a stretch. Ben Chaplin injects some lightheartedness as Billy, while Anna Friel is excellent as Mitchell’s chaotic sister, Briony.

Towards the end of London Boulevard, numerous plot holes appear. Certain aspects are never explained or concluded, and the climax is disorderly in its descent. Although most of the camera work is adequate, there are a few jarring episodes, such as the shaky handheld shots of Mitchell and Gant’s confrontation in the car park.

London Boulevard seems to be an attempt for Monahan to replicate his success in screenwriting The Departed. London Boulevard, however, lacks a proficient storyline as well as convincing and absorbing characters. Give it a miss.