I can totally understand why the urban legend that we only use 10 percent of our brain capacity has become so widespread. It’s an attractive idea, isn’t it? Rather than accepting that we’re not quite as intelligent that we wish we were, we can tell ourselves that all we need to do is to make better use of our brain capacity. We’ve all got the potential to become a genius.
The idea pops up every now and then. Sometimes it’s used as a vehicle to sell various new age related products and methods to people who people who are more than willing to pay a fortune to get access to the final 90 percent. It’s also been used in pop culture, most recently in the movie Limitless, where they for some reason have raised the amount that we actually use to 20 percent. (Perhaps it’s supposed to make it sound more believable?)
In the movie we follow the less-than-successful writer Eddie, who one day comes across a drug that will give him access to the missing 80 percent. His sudden genius makes him instantly successful in various areas, but the magical pill also turns out to have some side effects. Besides he’s not the only one who takes an interest in it.
Limitless was better than I thought it would be considering some fairly negative reviews I’ve seen around. It’s a fast paced thriller and it kept me quite entertained all the way through to an end which surprised me a little (not necessarily in a bad way).
If you consider watching it, I’d highly recommend you to listen to Jeff Goldsmith’s interview with the screenwriter Leslie Dixon. One hour long it gives her plenty of time to give a perspective from behind the scenes, surprisingly open and honest. You get to learn a lot about the making of the movie as well as a down-to-Earth image of what screenwriting is like.
Apparently they struggled a lot to come up with a good ending of the story. The way the book it’s based on ended wasn’t satisfying for the movie format, and in the end she rewrote it no less than 32 times. They didn’t just have the test audience reactions to take into account. There was also a complication when Robert De Niro was contracted in the last minute for a minor role. He turned out to have a lot of specific demands, including how the movie would end.
She also talks about her writing process, which sometimes isn’t quite as rigorously planned and outlined as you might think. For example there is one moment in the movie when a character finds herself in a bad spot, trying to hide from an enemy under a few rocks in Central Park. It’s a tough situation and what more: Leslie had no idea of how to get the person out of it until she did some field studies. So she went to Central Park and hid under the rocks, just like her character, and tried to see the situation through her eyes. And as she looked around, the solution finally came to her
Forgettable but entertaining
It’s easy to sympathize with Leslie, and listening to her definitely made me more positive about the film than I would have been otherwise. I was entertained as long as it lasted but I forgot about it as soon as it was over. Unless someone could bring me one of those magical pills of course. I can’t quite let go of the idea, myth or not. What if…?
Limitless (Neil Burger, US 2011) My rating: 3,5/5