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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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Ansgar: The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. 
<p>He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return. </p><p>Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr. </p><p>Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.</p> American Catholic Blog Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.

 
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