As far as movies go, I generally prefer obscure, foreign or classics from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Naturally, exceptions to the rule exist. For the same reason I’ll admit that some pop tunes are catchy, I also have a sweet spot for some mainstream films. The list is admittedly few and far between as I’ve found unique movies are quite rare to come by these days.
Limitless happens to be one of those mainstream films that has grown on me over the years. The plotline is unique, it has a great pace that doesn’t get dull, and most importantly is one of those movies that causes one to think after they’ve seen it.
The last point is especially important. If a movie is still swimming around in your head after you’ve seen it then it probably was either very disturbing or a really good film. I have to admit that I spent some time pondering what I would do, had I encountered a dealer’s stash of NZT pills.
An Analysis of the Plot Holes in Limitless
Limitless is a fun movie to critique due to the high standard that it sets for itself, delivering us a character who in theory sees every angle 3 steps ahead of time. With a bar set so high, it opens up room to point out the flaws that go against this logic.
Before diving in, I’m fully aware that every producer must ultimately make decisions so that the film resonates with the intended audience. This is why some plot holes are often necessary to deliver a decent mainstream film, especially when only a select few like myself will proceed to shred it apart.
Furthermore, I would argue that some of the best films are those where certain aspects of reality, chance, and coincidence are bent just enough that they don’t appear comically unrealistic yet toe that fine line of circumstances that could happen under just the right conditions.
Plot Hole #1: The Financial Fame & Celebrity of Eddie Morra
As I’ve said from the start, every movie must take liberty in telling a story. Nevertheless, I think Limitless would have been even more interesting had Bradley Cooper’s character took a more covert approach to amassing his wealth. Considering the foresight NZT should have brought to his character, it would seem prudent to be secretive in this regard, especially with the police already suspicious of him after his brother in law’s untimely death.
An approach that would have shielded him from the public would have been more in line with some parts of his character, similar to the role he played in War Dogs, always being a couple loops out of the picture but still involved. After all, if Morra could figure out a merger between two financial conglomerates was happening by reviewing a binder of papers, why would he not see the risks of drawing so much attention to himself?
Perhaps this is the downside of NZT, that one becomes so involved in seeing everything around them that they fail to reflect inwards. This is best evidenced in the scene where Eddie Morra goes on a self destructive binge for 12 hours, ultimately not recalling what he had done. Assuming that’s the case, it does seem that by the end of the movie Cooper’s character figured that aspect out.
Plot Hole #2: Eddie Morra’s Bunker
This is by far the worst section of the film as far as the plotline goes. To start, he invests millions in a bunker but has no weapons at all to defend himself. Secondly, his phone has no service during a time when he needs it the most. How did he not sort that out from the beginning? Also, why didn’t he also invest in several routers in the event he loses phone service? Most slums in the Bronx seem to have better Internet capabilities than his multi million dollar apartment bunker.
It’s a nice touch that he knows Russian in order to trick the blinded henchman to shoot his own boss, but even if the guy is blind wouldn’t he recognize an American accent speaking Russian? And wouldn’t he recognize the voice of his boss over any other Russian speaker? Eddie Morra proved he is proficient in multiple languages but was never seen to disguise his voice like the Terminator could.
Finally, the aftermath of this apartment battle makes no sense. Morra was already the suspect in a murder (not to mention conspicuously present in the death of his former brother-in-law). Fast forward a few scenes later and a double homicide occurs in the apartment he just purchased (along with body parts in his safe) yet he is not even a person of interest because the previous owner was an arms dealer.
Plot Hole #3. The Paradox of NZT
One could argue that you should “never get high off your own supply.” Yet herein lies an important point: if NZT had been in use for even a short period of time, why was Bradley Cooper’s character the first to become so powerful and not someone else before him? We never know about the manufacturer of NZT, which does make for a good plotline, but opens up a can of worms. If this pill would allow anyone to fully use their brain’s capacity, wouldn’t the logical outcome from a game theory standpoint be to monopolize the production? Furthermore, wouldn’t it also make sense to follow the trajectory of Bradley Cooper’s character and simply allow it to permanently augment your brain and then cease all production?
This is ultimately how the film ended, yet the question remains why was Morra the first to have figured this out? Whatever individual or team that invented the drug would already possess above average intelligence. Armed with the foresight NZT delivers, any distribution of the drug would only create obstacles in the form of competitors who could rise to your level as best evidenced by the Russian loan shark.
The example of competition, from Van Loon, the Russian loan shark, and others is the only possible fix to this plot hole. NZT could have been developed in secret with the intention of the inventor to never distribute it to the public, yet someone within the organization went rogue. Similar to Morra’s brother-in-law, someone caught on to them but suffered the same fate, leading to unintentional development of many competitors. It’s a stretch of course but could be one work around for this plot hole.
Thoughts on the Ending of Limitless & Some Last Plot Holes
In light of the fact that Bradley Cooper put his girlfriend in physical danger after she risked her life to get him out of his withdrawal, it made sense that she would want nothing to do with him afterwards. It was surprising, then, to see her at lunch with him in the film’s final scene. Did she really just sell out so easily to his power and money? Consider that she is fully aware that all of his success is the direct result of a substance, and not an organic change in perseverance, determination, and self discipline.
A character like the wife of Francis Underwood in House of Cards would have been the more appropriate companion for the newly minted Eddie Morra since her actions in the final scene belies the character we thought that we knew. In essence, we are missing a scene that justifies her moral about face.
My interpretation of the ending is more negative than positive. As I’ve alluded to, Eddie Morra got to the top by cutting corners. He has blood on his hands and as the film ends he does appear for lack of a better word, limitless. Despite his initial motivation to simply be a well known author, his undying thirst for power lays judgment upon humanity. If all of us were given the magical pill of unlimited knowledge, would we immediately find ourselves going down the rabbit hole of psychopathy? The answer is rather lengthy, prompting me to write a second post on the subject: The Philosophy of Limitless.
Finally, when Morra confronts Van Loon at the end, he predicts a car crash before it happens. If he has such foresight wouldn’t he know Van Loon was planning to visit him all along? If you recall, he had lunch plans but with the foresight to see all events, he wouldn’t have made lunch plans that he would ultimately have to cancel or at least slightly postpone due to Van Loon’s surprise visit. I understand this scene was placed in the film to show Morra’s brain capacity has taken on a new level, yet being able to actually see events before they happen, rather than making highly educated predictions is a type of clairvoyance verging on the paranormal. For example, with all available knowledge in the world Morra may be able to predict a stock market crash or geopolitical disaster with a high degree of accuracy but the possession of all the world’s knowledge cannot guarantee these events will occur with certainty.
Stretching this concept out another few limbs further, if Morra has the ability to see into the future then he’d know the outcomes of his actions in advance, which is the basic plotline of the movie Paycheck. The possession of such knowledge could place Morra into an infinite loop of constant indecision since every small choice, from ordering a coffee to acquiring a business, would unleash a butterfly effect that Morra would be fully aware of. Such knowledge could easily place Morra’s character into clinical depression since he would possess the knowledge of his own death, the outcome of world events, and his legacy.
Final Thoughts on the Movie Limitless
It’s only because I’ve had fun watching and re-watching Limitless that I take liberty in tearing it apart. To keep with the Robert DeNiro theme, I’m a huge fan of Goodfellas where I’ve given the film equal tough love, not because I dislike the movie but only because I’ve invested hours of my life watching the classic over and over again. Check out my analysis of the film’s overall plotline if you enjoyed this piece. And if you’ve never seen Once Upon a Time in America, you can also check out my opinion of the ending.
Thanks for checking out my article and stay tuned for more!