Limitless (2011) is a thrilling story about Eddie Morra, a typical struggling writer in New York City. As he struggles to finish a book that he has not even started, his writer’s block costs him his girlfriend, his physical appearance, and his self-confidence. Of course, his problem is met with a sudden solution. One day, he runs into Vernon, the brother of his estranged ex-wife, a former drug dealer turned pharmaceutical consultant. Vernon introduces Eddie to NZT, a pill that promises to enhance Eddie’s mental capacity and dig him out the rut he has dug for himself.
Outside of an already captivating plot, director Neil Burger includes interesting cinematographic techniques to lure the viewer into the transformation of Eddie’s world due to NZT. At the most basic level, Burger shifts the point of view of the film when Eddie begins taking NZT. The whole beginning of the movie is shot from an objective point of view that unveils Eddie’s struggles for the viewer. Suddenly, Eddie takes NZT for the first time while his landlord’s girlfriend lectures him about rent past due. This is also the first time that we experience a subjective point of view through Eddie’s eyes. We get a grasp of how his surroundings are visually enhanced, almost as if to experience the effect of the drug ourselves. The change in point of view finally puts the viewer inside Eddie’s thought process and prepares us for a major change in his character. In addition, the shots from his point of view on NZT display intense tones of colors that magnify the viewer’s perspective even more. Surrounding shades of color are intensified creating an almost mystical visual aesthetic. As a viewer, I felt a sense of enlightenment, as if a whole new world was being discovered.
Another aspect of NZT that the viewer notices through the point of view of the character is the close-up shots. As Eddie’s visuals are enhanced, he is able to focus on minute details around him that would otherwise be ignored. Burger employs numerous close-up shots to show the viewer the attentiveness that the character experiences. Eddie is not the only character who takes NZT in the film. He reunites with his girlfriend, Lindy, after turning his life around on the drug. When he stops taking the drug due to adverse side effects, his body breaks down and he has to depend on Lindy to save his life. She must recover an NZT pill from their home and bring it to him before his body breaks down entirely. On her way to his rescue, she is followed by a man who eventually chases her through the city and corners her. She calls Eddie, who advises her to take the drug so she can think her way out of the dilemma. When she takes the pill, the viewer then experiences her point of view. She details her surroundings, focusing on sharp blades within her vicinity to defend herself. Close-up shots are used to enhance Lindy’s concentration on objects that are relatively distant from where she is standing. All of a sudden, she breaks free from her trapped position and executes a dangerous plan that she clearly premeditates when she takes the drug. This scene is one of the many examples that made me as a viewer believe that NZT truly eliminated any boundaries that may exist in any kind of situation. It also made me think about the everyday attention, or lack thereof, that we pay towards detail. In the film, NZT’s appeal lies in its ability to allow you to access every part of your brain. Recall and retention were enhanced due to receptors in the brain that are usually neglected. I could not help but think about an underlying message this move may be conveying: how often do we as human beings push back certain memories and details into our subconscious? Too often? It makes you wonder how timely the brain operates in terms of selective memory. I think Burger indicates in this film that we have more brain power than we might think.