Friday, March 25, 2011


Limitless. So this is not normally a film that I would rush out and see. But, a few friends wanted to see a movie, any movie!, preferably an ACTION movie. So, Limitless it was!

So the basic story-line is, a struggling writer gets a hold of a new, not-yet-approved super drug that him super intelligent for 8 hours or so. He finishes his book in four days, and then tackles the stock market in order to achieve supreme wealth in a matter of weeks. 

With films, I have a basic test: watchable or unwatchable? I think that the line of watchable or unwatchable hovers around 2.5 out of 5 stars. Are all of the film elements of a passable level in their own right?... and do all of those film elements mesh together imperceptably to create a believable scenario that draws you in to the point where you forget about your own life, your own body sitting their in the chair, the un-eaten jar of nuts in your bag?... On this point, Limitless passes the test! I give this film a 3.5 out of 5. It's definitely above a pass, with seamlessly arty special effects, an apt sound-track, believable casting and acting.

There is also something to be said about films that are based on books. Limitless is based on a novel of the same name by British author Alan Glynn. Contrasted with other action films (that often have only limited dialogue peppered throughout expansive visual action scenes), Limitless has an intelligent and thoughtful narrative flowing throughout the entire film, adding a layer of interest for the cognitive senses.

Thematically, the film (and novel) are apt and timely; at present, smart drugs are actually starting to become available through both legal and illegal means. This film will therefore be of use to various high-school and university teachers wanting to engage students in discussion regarding the ethical complications that these sorts of drugs will have as they permeate society.

A few of the major thinking points that this film raised for me are:

1. Currently, Olympic athletes must pass drug tests in order to compete. What sort of status would smart drugs have in society in terms of regulation and control? Would aspiring students need to pass drug tests in order to entire prestigious colleges or companies? Or would these colleges and companies tolerate the use of such drugs in respect to the intellectual advantages and productive benefits that may result from usage by students or employees?

2. What kind of impact would these drugs have on society if they are only available to those who can afford/obtain the drug? How would you feel if you were applying for a job in competition with a person using a "smart drug"? Would it become necessary for you to also take the drug in order to retain competitiveness?

3. The drug portrayed in this film is an "intelligence" drug, which enables the user to fully draw on his own memory and neural pathways, recognise patterns and make accurate predictions. In my experience, however, intelligence is separate from motivation and action. It's one thing to be a high level thinker, but another to be motivated enough to do something with your intelligence. This relates to the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of judging individuals on IQ. Provided that the IQ is high enough (ie, 100), individuals have been known to achieve great things in life due to motivation and sheer tenacity. Having a genius IQ does not mean you will create genius work,...  making a mark on the world usually entails a great deal of perserverance, effort and productive activity. People may take a smart drug expecting that they will suddenly shoot to the top of the ladder, but I think a lot of people make it in this world by actually putting in the hours (whether that be through research, repetition, vast productivity, or networking with the right people and entering the circle of cronyism at the top of many organisations).

At the end of the day, Limitless is very watchable; exploring interesting issues regarding the human use of performance enhancing substances; which is certainly a phenomenon that is not going away any time soon.