"Worth the risk?...What would you do?"
How often have you thought about the possibility of taking one pill per each day that would maximize your brain’s full potential? With the movie ‘Limitless’ with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, this film poses the answer in the form of ‘NZT-48’, which can allow you to access everything you’ve read, heard, and learned without any true effort. This kind of wonder drug is purely fictional but many people in real life seek this kind of legal short cut nowadays whether it’s to focus, to lose weight, to improve memory, or to retain more information. In the film’s early scenes such as the one that introduce this magic pill’s effects, we get to see what kind of effects NZT-48 has on Eddie Moura, the main character.
This limitless pill is introduced as one that can improve focus, memory, knowledge retention, tidiness, and even make your intelligence that much more advanced especially after repeated usage. The scene that I would highlight shows just how effective it can be in multiple areas and how well the director shows how its daily usage turns a struggling writer into a financial tycoon and published author in just a week’s time.
The scene starts out with Eddie Moura taking the NZT-48 pill for the first time even though he knows it comes with risks and side effects. He asks, “worth the risk?” by breaking the fourth wall with the audience, and says in the narration, “what would you do?” It’s a pertinent question because due to how many months, years, or decades it takes to be successful naturally without any enhancements, supplements, or advantages, how many of us watching the scene would want to take the easy way out in life even if there were risks involved? It’s part of the reason why this scene is so powerful because we know Eddie will face consequences for using this pill eventually but as we are told, the benefits of the pill may outweigh the consequences at first making it a tempting magic pill.
Eddie’s changes start out small as his pupils dilate and he starts seeing the world much more clearly than before. He’s clear-headed, not anxious socially, able to think and act clearly, and is aware of his own personality traits that need improvement. He gets a haircut, builds his wardrobe with a stylist leather jacket, cleans up his messy apartment, and starts to exercise more frequently and seriously.
From there, Eddie, a struggling writer, finds “a surge of motivation” from the pill to finish the novel he had been failing to finish for years and writes it all in just a few days’ time. Eddie doesn’t stop at that monumental achievement as a new novelist. He learns to play the piano in just three days, becomes a master poker player knowing how to play the odds in his favor and winning a lot of money against the house, and becomes fluent in most languages just by casually listening to them as he goes on a daily run with the headphones playing different vocabulary for him to instantly memorize.
Eddie uses his newfound social and language skills to seduce a beautiful woman and begin to network and build relationships to put his newfound wealth to good use in the stock market. He explains key economic concepts to those around him, can hedge bets on the pharmaceutical industry (partly responsible for his NZT-48 usage), and flies to a far-off beach to enjoy drinks and food at a private mansion with some of his new friends.
These may be selfish desires on Eddie’s part, but he’s able to diagnose exactly what the medical issue is with his aunt and how to fix the issue. “I suddenly knew everything about everything.” He is able to not only explain complicated medical diagnoses but is able to explain complicated concepts simply enough for everybody else to agree and understand. Eddie has access to everything and a 100% capacity to do what he wishes with his life. He has no fears, no anxieties from taking the magic pill and can hold a conversation with anybody about anything.
However, towards the end of the scene, we start to see the drawbacks of this magic pill in how Eddie must keep moving forward or it’ll feel like he’s dying or suffering. We see this briefly in how he drives a Maserati at maximum speed much to the delight of his companion, but for which he has no conception of how dangerously fast he’s going and what the drawbacks can be of his new heart-stopping lifestyle. “I felt like I was going to explode…”
“Anybody ever jump?” Eddie says to his newfound friends on a massive cliff overlooking the ocean. “Are you crazy?”, one woman asks of him given it’s a few hundred meters above sea level. Eddie’s heart is pulsating and while he’s lost his fear including of heights, he’s beginning to see that he can’t pull back on the adrenaline, the curiosity, and the sheer exhilaration the pill is giving him. The pill does have a side effect and it can be a deadly one of not being able to slow down and to live life normally. Eddie constantly must be upping himself and creating bigger and bigger goals for him to accomplish.
We see this play out in the rest of the film as Eddie seeks to become more wealthy, famous, and powerful with the help of his magic pill. As much as the audience sees how exciting and fulfilling Eddie’s life had become since using NZT-48, the film is a warning against how taking the short cut of a ‘magic pill’ or a quick and easy fix can come with devastating consequences. It is a warning on how taking the easy way out may feel good in the short run, it can have side effects that can bring us down as a result.
This scene is shot very well and is rememberable because it shows just how much potential we all have and it’s not from a pill like NZT-48 as it comes instead from within us. We may not be able to write a book in a few days or learn the piano or be a star poker player like Eddie, but we do have the discipline, abilities, and motivation within us to improve ourselves even if it takes longer in the form of months, years, or decades. We can all learn to exercise more consistently, learn a new language quicker with consistent practice, and be able to improve our style, our conversational skills, and build our finances and our talents over a period of time.
Eddie Moura may have needed NZT-48 to reach the heights of human achievement, but the film’s message, especially in this scene, is that while the ‘magic pill’ is fictional, we can strive to achieve more through our own discipline, consistency, and hard work. We may not be as good as Eddie at everything or be able to be as accomplished as quickly, but this scene does show how with consistent effort, hard work, and beliefs, we can reach our own pinnacle as Eddie did.
It’s a fictional scene and movie about one man’s insatiable desire to use this ‘magic pill’ repeatedly to be the man he always dreamed of being without any regard for what this addiction can cause harm to him and others in his life. It is a cautionary story for each of us that while he was able to achieve great things much more quickly, it did cost him a lot as a result. We ourselves can achieve almost as many great things through our own natural abilities and talents, without a ‘magic pill’ needed, and not have to deal with the consequences of using the shortcut taken by Eddie Moura because of that. To be as ‘Limitless’ as possible, you need to work as hard as you can as consistently as you can to do the best that you can.