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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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