Limitless * * *
Cert 15, 104 mins
There’s a great premise to this film – and that’s if only we could make more of our brains then life would be so much better.
Adapted by Leslie Dixon from Alan Glynn’s debut novel, The Dark Fields, this cautionary tale is also a reminder that sometimes we should be careful what we wish for.
Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), Limitless works best with some high-powered visual sequences which heighten our own senses.
The seamless opening sequence which takes us through the inside of car after car in a traffic jam is quite astonishing.
How did they do that ... is it clever editing, a video game, motion capture, animation or something new?
In truth, it doesn’t matter, because this eye-popping style of travel is addictive and we want more. Much more.
Just like writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper).
Struggling to put words together on a page, his brain is enhanced from the equivalent of a 1960s calculator into a 21st century super computer after his former brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth) supplies him with some pills.
Nothing is beyond Eddie now as his confidence soars and his corporate influence rockets.
Every high, though, has a downside.
And for viewers it’s the fact that Limitless ends up feeling like a Porsche capped at 60mph.
Co-star Robert De Niro is offering quality work on a plate for once, but his hilariously-named Wall Street money man Carl Van Loon doesn’t get enough to do to add tension to the plot’s dynamics.
Just like Abbie Cornish as Eddie’s girlfriend, Lindy.
I’m not sure what former Brookside star Anna Friel has ever done on the silver screen to be worth a part in a Captain Bob movie, but here she is.
Equally underwritten, but at least she, too, looks as if she’s giving a performance to the extent that she’ll scarcely recognise herself in the mirror after watching this back.
Limitless is far more adventurous, purposeful – and believable – than Matt Damon’s current Philip K Dick adaptation The Adjustment Bureau.
But unless you find some NZT pills in your popcorn, it’s unlikely to blow your mind. GY
The Eagle * * *
Cert 12A, 113 mins
The mystery of what happened to the Ninth Legion of the Roman army is a popular subject for film-makers – not least last year’s gory Centurion.
Legend (or at least one version of history) has it that 5,000 men just disappeared in Britain around 120AD after marching into unconquered territory in northern Britain, and that ‘‘shamed’’ Emperor Hadrian built his wall to keep out those pesky natives.
This film takes place 20 years later, with the arrival of Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) as the new commander in charge of an English garrison.
His father was the man leading the Ninth and the one who lost their golden eagle standard, so Marcus is determined to regain his family’s honour.
He proves his worth as a soldier, successfully putting down an attack by savage Britons, who have a habit of decapitating their Roman prisoners.
He’s injured in battle and discharged, but when he hears a rumour that the eagle has been sighted, he sets out to retrieve it with no support except from his native slave Esca (Jamie Bell).
Esca, who conveniently speaks fluent Latin, swears his allegiance after Marcus saves his life, but whose side is he really on?
There’s quite a bit to enjoy about The Eagle. Performances aren’t bad, though I’d have liked to have seen more of Mark Strong, who only shows up briefly after an hour. The Scottish scenery is stunning and it’s fairly educational. Older boys will probably relish the brief flashes of violence and ‘‘eww’’ moments, such as the raw consumption of a rat.
It’s a little annoying that all the Romans talk with an American accent, but at least it’s consistent and it distinguishes them from the Brits. My main problem is that the action sags badly in the middle and is only revived by a rather unlikely ending. RL
Faster * * *
Cert 15, 98 mins
When you’ve got a modicum of acting talent and the physique of a man like 38-year-old Dwayne Johnson, it’s most regrettable that he’s been making stuff like the woeful Tooth Fairy in recent years.
When he’s fat and 50, the 6ft 4in football star turned wrestler will have all in the time in the world to try comedy.
For now, the still-mobile meat mountain ought to be racing around as a proper action man in thrillers like this one.
Pumped full of bullets, a stupendous reverse-gear car chase and a no-nonsense Death Wish mantra underscored with another cracking score by Black Swan’s Clint Mansell, Faster will certainly set your heart racing – but whether it fully engages your brain depends on how low your intelligence is.
As ‘‘Driver’’, Johnson is an ex-con of few words with a checklist of names he wants to obliterate to compensate for the death of his brother.
Fashion designer Betty Jackson’s son Oliver Cohen-Jackson makes an instant career impact as a highly-skilled parallel character called Killer, while Billy Bob Thornton is in Nicolas Cage mode as Cop.
Director George Tillman Jr made De Niro’s leaden-footed Men Of Honour a decade ago, but Faster is sufficiently visceral to offer the sort of puerile pleasure that many will happily plead guilty for at the box office. GY
A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures * * *
Cert U, 85 mins
A sea turtle called Sammy is born on a Californian beach in 1959 and spends 50 years swimming the world’s oceans.
That’s about the size of the very slight plot of this amiable-enough animated tale.
Very young children will be mesmerised by the colourful undersea world, which really comes to life in 3D. But it’s no Finding Nemo, with very few jokes or good lines, so older kids and adults won’t be quite so transfixed. It’s a very European affair – the cast is British or Irish and the director, Ben Stassen, is Belgian.
Sammy is voiced by, at different stages in his life, Dominic Cooper and John Hurt. Gemma Arterton is his love interest Shelly, while Misfits star Robert Sheehan voices his leatherback turtle friend Ray.
There are some quite exciting moments – within seconds of hatching, Sammy is snatched by a seagull who flies off with him. He also has encounters with sharks, piranhas, oil spills and humans, who are mainly helpful rather than harmful, despite an underlying message about global warming and conservation.
Sammy travels to Antarctica for no good reason other than it offers a change of scenery and the chance to introduce animated penguins.
But kids won’t really be thinking of the plot, they’ll just enjoy letting the images wash over them. RL