Run time 105 minutes.
OK for children.

Bradley Cooper in “Limitless.”

I used to be a big baseball fan. In fact, I’m confident when I say there are few alive who know as much about the game as I. But, while lots of things cooled me on the game, a big factor was steroids and the idiots who used them. They destroyed the hallowed records upon which the popularity of the game is based. The refusal of the Commissioner to take a principled stand condemned the game to an abdication of its history.

This film stands as a clear metaphor for those imbeciles. Instead of sports, however, this film deals with business and politics. And instead of a chemical that enhances physical prowess, in this film it’s a drug, NZT: A designer pharmaceutical that expands the use of the taker’s brain to its fullest extent possible.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a blocked writer; he can’t fill the blank page with words. His girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), dumps him, as does his editor. Despondent, he runs into his ex brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who gives him a magic pill that allows him to access the power of his brain to the fullest extent. Suddenly he is amazingly aware, a font of knowledge, sort of like the way George Costanza (Jason Alexander) became in an episode of Seinfeld entitled “The Abstinence,” which first aired Nov. 21, 1996. He knows everything and can digest the most complex writings in an instant. From there things take turns he couldn’t have anticipated, including people trying to kill him and Lindy.

This is a fascinating thriller. Cooper gives a fine performance, seamlessly transgressing from a down-and-out guy who looks like a street person to a well-groomed budding Captain of Industry. Whitworth is equally compelling as the conniving Vernon. Cornish, always one of my favorites, failed in a vague way to come across the way she usually does — not one of her better performances. Robert De Niro seemed to confuse this role as a powerful entrepreneur with the many comedy roles he’s been playing. His performance was little more than a caricature. Hoist on his own petard, from the look on his face I kept anticipating a laugh line.

Despite these failings, this is a fun movie that never lets up. Director Neil Burger keeps the pace going with constantly mounting tension, getting the most out of a fine script (Leslie Dixon) from a novel, The Dark Fields, by Alan Glynn. It is enhanced by terrific special effects (Connie Brink), cinematography (Jo Willems), editing (Tracy Adams and Naomi Geraghty) and music (Paul Leonard-Morgan).

Source Code

Run time 93 minutes.
OK for children.

Jake Gyllenhaal in “Source Code.”

From the Robert Wise-style opening (obviously inspired by the openings of West Side Story and The Sound of Music) with gorgeous aerial shots of Chicago, Source Code presents a refreshing new idea for time warp movies. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an Air Force pilot who finds himself in a high tech experiment to find a mad bomber. Colter is entombed in a chamber communicating with the outside world, Air Force officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), electronically. The experiment captures the last eight minutes of a person’s life and allows Colter to enter and re-enter into a train speeding towards Chicago and communicate with its passengers in the eight minutes before it is blown to smithereens by a bomb, killing everyone. So he keeps going back, trying to find the bomber, whom Colter’s controllers think is planning a massive bomb that could annihilate Chicago.

Naturally, since this is a movie, his seatmate is a drop-dead gorgeous woman, Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). Every guy in the audience undoubtedly dreams of finding themselves seated next to someone like Christina. But Colter is on a mission and for awhile her charms elude him.

Gyllenhaal does a phenomenal job of acting, and so does Monaghan, and that’s important for science fiction time warp movies because the concept is so preposterous. The good ones, like Final Countdown (1980), keep the plot moving because the actors make it so believable.

Director Duncan Jones takes a terrific script by Ben Ripley, an honors graduate of the USC School of Cinema-Television, and makes both of their virginal forays into major motion picture-making a high-tension, highly entertaining adventure.

In addition to the three principals, Jeffrey Wright gives a fine performance as Dr. Rutledge, the single-minded, cold, physically-handicapped genius who created Source Code that allows Colter to time travel.

Equally important to the acting, directing and script of a good time warp movie are the cinematography and music. Don Burgess and Chris Bacon, respectively, make heavy contributions to the wonderful pace and style of the film.

Although there are a few plot holes, it’s not possible to make a time warp movie without them —time travel being impossible. But they were so few and so unimportant that they were easy to ignore.

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