Limitless – Movie Review
Review by Stacey Tuttle
Limitless is the story of a lazy man, Eddie Morra, who squandered his talents and opportunities and was content to be a free loader as long as he could manage it. Fortunately for him, he was introduced to a powerful new drug which made life much easier by allowing him to function at a higher brain capacity. He suddenly knew what to do and how to do it and…he had the energy to do it. Not surprisingly, there were some dangerous side effects and consequences to his drug use. So, in a rather convenient plot contrivance, he found a way to maintain the side effects of the drug (including the intelligence and energy) and yet wean himself off of it. Because he found a way to maintain the side effects, he was also able to hold on to some other perks: money, position, influence, power and the girl. All very convenient.
That’s a cynical summation of the story anyway. But I think there’s another way to look at it.
Limitless is the story of a man, Eddie Morra, who has fallen on hard times and by consequence a rather debilitating depression. His mind is foggy and he simply cannot see his way through. But he finds a drug which helps. It lifts the depression and clears the fog. Suddenly, he can be a contributing member of society. He can not only stand on his own two feet for a change, but he can go beyond that and actually help others. He loves the way it feels to be able to think well of himself again and to have the admiration and respect of others. But, in the back of his mind, it’s all a little tainted by the fact that he needs drugs. He really wants to be able to be this person on his own. There is part of him that needs to know, is the drug just helping him to be who he really is, or is it making him more than or other than he is? And, he’s seen others who got too dependent on the drug—he doesn’t want to wind up like they did. So, he works diligently to find a way to eventually get free of the drug. In the end, the hard work pays off. He is no longer dependent on any substance, but that drug helped him to get out of a hole that he otherwise wasn’t capable of escaping. A hopeful story.
I confess, I have vacillated back and forth between these two possible interpretations for weeks. I’m still vacillating. But this is partly what was so fascinating to me about the movie. It’s what’s fascinating to me about movies in general. Whether or not I personally leave a movie this divided in my response to it, I still find that if you ask a variety of people, you find a variety of responses. People in general will not be in agreement in their reactions, they will have differing interpretations.
And this is what impresses me: most (if not all) stories or events have more than one way to look at them. Therefore it’s possible that more important than any actual interpretation is the question of where our interpretations come from in the first place. What shapes our responses? Where do we get the lenses through which we see the world? The reality is, we bring our own biases to the things we read, watch, listen to… Our world view, our personalities, our beliefs and our past history all affect how we interpret events and stories, and they all affect what we get out of, or take away from those events/stories.
My dear friend and I were discussing Limitless and she shared her interpretation of it…one I hadn’t quite thought of, one clearly a result of her world view and experiences. She said it was, to her, a reminder of what life with the Lord could be like. God gives us his Holy Spirit as a helper. The Helper helps us to become more of the person God created us to be. He helps us to become better versions of ourselves, and more like Christ in the process, all to the glory of God. You see, without the Lord, my friend was lost and struggling. Now that she knows the Lord, she feels a bit like she is on that pill—life is clearer; it’s so much simpler. She can see now with clarity who she is to be, the things she is to do, things she is not to do. And she has help to become that person.
That’s a pretty cool interpretation! It’s also a connection that could only be made by a person who has known Jesus and seen the difference He made in their life. Just like only a person who has dealt with depression (for example) and struggled over the use of drugs to stabilize their chemistry could fully grasp the complexities in Eddie’s situation.
I admit it; this isn’t exactly a new idea. It’s also not that useful if we just stop here. OK, so because of who we are and things we have been through, we are inclined to see the world in a certain light. Big deal. But what if we don’t just stop here? What if we go a step further?
There is some good in taking a good look at the lenses through which you view the world. Sometimes those lenses are smudged, damaged or broken or just unnecessary, like wearing sunglasses inside. If you’re complaining that things are too dark, you might find it would be good to take off the shades—you might find the place is a bit brighter without the dark lenses! So, we should first start with a good look at our tendencies toward certain interpretations. Are they useful? Are they accurate? Are they hopeful? Are they kind? You might even find that Philippians 4:8 provides a good “lens checker”: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
But, as I said, I think we should go a step further, or maybe even two. The next step is to think about what other people’s interpretations reveal about their lenses. Are they cynical? Are they empathetic? Do they see hope or hopelessness? Do they bring God into the equation? This is an important step. It not only helps us to get to know other people better, but it also is very helpful is helping us take the last step.
The last step. The last step is really only applicable to people who would think that a person’s world view matters…and more importantly, that a right world view matters. If I am a person who thinks that all interpretations are equally valid, all religions are equally valid, and all lifestyles are equally good and valid, then the only benefit in step two, in understanding another person’s perspective, is just for the pure sake of curiosity and knowing what that person thinks and feels. I can’t have any other purpose, because I don’t assign any value to one feeling or thought or choice over another.
However, especially for Christians, we do assign value to thoughts and choices and feelings. We do think that some thoughts are better than others (for example, a true thought is better than a false one), some choices are better than others (for example, the choice to forgive vs. the choice to exact revenge). And, by consequence, some interpretations (whether it’s an interpretation of an event or of a movie or a story…) are better than others—not because of some warped sense of superiority, not because it is what we think, but because it aligns with a worldview which we hold to be true and right and/or because it is a more helpful, productive way to think.
If it’s true that some lines of thought are more helpful, more right, more true…better in some way or another…then it stands to follow that we should be interested in helping others get to those lines of thought for themselves. For example, if I have an Eeyore friend, a friend who always thinks the glass is half empty, who sees the downside to everything, and I see that her thoughts are making her depressed and hopeless and zapping her of the energy and the hope to do anything productive as well as isolating her from others, then it would make sense that I would want to help her see things differently. I would want to help her find hope, see the upside to things and view the glass as half full.
Part of the way I can do this is by sharing alternative perspectives. I can put things in a different light and maybe share the way I see it. Sometimes people really cannot conceive of any other way to look at things. They don’t have glasses on, they have contacts—and they have forgotten that contacts are exchangeable lenses…and that sometimes they go bad and need to be replaced!
Here is the beauty of it, God is the Great Ophthalmologist. He can fix our lenses. Are we nearsighted? He can give us better long-range vision. Does everything look too dark? He can help us see the light. Do we have a stigmatism and find that our vision is blurry and confused? He can fix it! He can bring clarity.
And here’s the other exciting part…once our vision gets better, he wants us to go and tell others about His services! We get to tell others about how this amazing God fixed our vision. We get to bring others to Him so that they can get their vision fixed too! And how do we know if someone’s vision needs correction? We watch the way they “see” things. We listen to how they describe and perceive what they see. It all comes back to paying some attention to the ways in which we, and those around us, interpret the events and stories in our lives.
Questions for Discussion:
- What was your reaction to/interpretation of Limitless?
- If someone were to look at the ways in which you interpret events (or stories) in your life, what do you think they would surmise about the kind of person you are? In other words, what do you think your interpretations reveal about your perspective?
- Do you think that what a person believes about God has a big effect on the way they perceive the world?
- Do you think your “vision” could stand a little improving?
- Do you have friends who, at least in your opinion, could use a spiritual eye exam and/or some new lenses?
- What are you doing to serve the Great Ophthalmologist in His work of bringing sight to the blind?
 Obviously, this interpretation falls a little short when the pill becomes dangerous and is something he has to wean himself off of – God is always good for us and in this scenario (unlike the movie), more is ALWAYS better. We never want to wean ourselves off of God!
 Luke 4:18