Monday, 2 May 2011


This is a simple story that is creatively told. Everyone dreams 'what if' dreams - what if my brain worked to its full potential rather than the usual limits of 20%? In a chance encounter, Eddie (Bradley Cooper) who is a down-on-his-luck writer bumps into his ex brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) who takes pity on him and offers a pill (NCT) that will make him feel better. Eddie pops the pill and rest is history.

Directed by Neil Burger, the film uses a number of stunning visual techniques to narrate the story. The opening titles sequence is a series of never ending zooms through car windows and along crowded side walks up Manhattan. The speed, saturation, brilliance and cacophony of noise are pushed to the limit to exhibit the heightened sensual acuity that Eddie enjoys when riding the NCT wave. His brain able to process all this data and generate a thousand possible scenarios means he is always 50 steps ahead of the opposition whether it be in terms of negotiating a deal with a loan shark, fighting to save his own life or closing the biggest merger in US Corporate history.

The film chooses to place the new Eddie as a transformed author who finishes his book in just days. He enter the world of share and commodity dealing and quintuples his profits on a daily business. This brings him to the attention of Wall Street's Mr Big - Carl Van Loon (Robert De Nero) who hires him to oversee a merger/acquisition. It's a pity that enhanced abilities are put to use generating wealth rather than engaging in some other philanthropic activity - but I guess that is the prevailing 'what if' dream of post-modern Western society.

This is an action film. As Eddie's stocks of NCT runs low he runs the risk of death from the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. He commissions a scientist to manufacture NCT but the scientist is unsure about the safety without clinical trials. Those who originally manufactured the NCT are trying to get their stash back and when the generic Balkan/Russian loan shark discovers the existence of NCT and pops one himself he too puts pressure on Eddie to supply. As all of Eddie's spinning plates look like falling off their poles at the same time, he runs out of NCT and has to find a solution using his 'normal' intellect. There is of course an ongoing love interest, the possibility of re-engagement with his ex and a series of heightened one-night-stands, one of which leaves his partner dead meaning he has the police on his back too.

There are other stunning visuals - like when the ceiling tiles become letter and number tiles and click over like those on airport departure boards. Burger invents his own version of 'digital rain' - alphabet rain, as Eddie types at a speed his laptop struggles to keep up with.

For me, whilst inviting the audience to ask an important question, the limit of the exploration of only one possible response means the story is never fully able to reach its potential - it is far from limitless as it plays out the usual stuff of greed and personal advancement. What if multiple possible futures had played out simultaneously? Once or twice the dialogue verges on the metaphysical with references to human striving to become the perfect expression of what we have been created to be, but it never really engages in anything remotely philosophical or spiritual. For me this is the film's major short-coming.

An enjoyable action movie but ultimately limited rather than limitless. I'll give it 6.5/10.

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