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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Limitless

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

If we could all use 100 percent of our brains, we'd be rich, ruthless and get away with cold-blooded murder. That's the bluntly cynical message of "Limitless" (Relativity), a labyrinthine thriller about a mysterious pill that produces precisely such a hypomanic edge.

More benignly, this adaptation of Alan Glynn's 2001 novel "The Dark Fields" also suggests that, in our information-glutted age, those with the ability to sort it all out to see the larger picture gain a competitive advantage.

Well and good. Along the way, however, Leslie Dixon's script trivializes the murder of a woman who has the misfortune to wind up as collateral damage in one of protagonist Eddie Morra's (Bradley Cooper) manic episodes under the influence of the secretive drug in question, a chemical known as NZT.

Morra is a failing sci-fi novelist who's losing his girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) and can't make his rent. When his former brother-in-law Vern (Johnny Whitworth) -- a one-time dope dealer now claiming to have gone legit -- gives him a capsule of NZT, though, Morra instantly pulls his mind together and goes on to produce a hit novel, win Lindy back, learn multiple languages and experiment with day trading.

He's so successful at picking stocks that he gets pulled into the financial dealings of billionaire Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) while simultaneously evading a gaggle of Russian gangsters and finding ways to score more NZT, even if he has to hire a chemist to make the stuff.

There are many scenes showing how productive Morra has become and, presumably, how creative the rest of us could be if we could only harness our full brainpower. Singing the praises of NZT, Morra comments, "Everything I'd ever heard, read or seen was now organized and available."

Director Neil Burger lays on the brain-expansion imagery pretty thick: All full-tilt minds evidently must zoom through New York City traffic like runaway trains, and when the words spill into Morra's head as he feverishly bats out his novel, they literally fall from the ceiling. As for some plot threads about brain damage, though, Burger leaves them dangling.

Far more significantly, "Limitless" seems to apply its title to Morra's moral status, as he blazes a trail of homicidal violence that entails no discernable consequences. Once fueled by NZT, so it would seem, Morra becomes a Nietzschean superman above mere right and wrong.

The film contains skewed moral values, considerable gun and knife violence, a few implied premarital situations and fleeting crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service



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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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