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The Ending Of Limitless Explained

"What if drugs made life fun?" With this singular, previously unconsidered thesis statement, Limitless, directed by Neil Burger, roared into theaters in 2011. "Limitless by Neil Burger" sounds like an Impossible Burger for cannibals. That's neither here nor there.

Between the rising prominence of human augmentation and American medicine's love affair with cognition-enhancing medications, Limitless had a lot of material to run with. Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, it leaned heavily into that old chestnut that humans only use 15 to 20 percent of their brain at a time and that our true potential could be unlocked if we just utilized the whole thing. Is it true? Only in as much as we'd be better drivers if we pushed 100 percent of the pedals in our cars at the same time, but then there's no such thing as the Force or Iron Man either, so maybe it's okay to just sit back and enjoy a movie.

Through the use of a shady new miracle drug, our hero Eddie (Bradley Cooper) goes from being a lowly, stinking, unlovable writer to a cool dude, capable of remarkable feats of acumen and very much aware of the fact that he looks like Bradley Cooper. He is beloved and admired, possessed of a vocal tempo normally reserved for the good guys in Aaron Sorkin shows. Unfortunately, Eddie's involvement with the drug, NZT-48, also saddles him with a litany of freaky side effects and a powerful contingent of prospective enemies.

It's the one where the guy becomes limitless

The biggest twist comes in the film's last scene, when Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) tries to muscle in on Eddie. Van Loon reveals that he's absorbed Eddie's pharmaceutical production setup and is now the only game in town for NZT-48. Attempting to leverage his hard-won advantage, Carl offers to continue supplying the drug in exchange for favors as Eddie's political career continues to pick up steam. Unfortunately for Carl, Eddie has figured out a way to have his cake and not eat it, too. He's weaned himself off the drug, while still exhibiting all of the benefits of it, pointing out a car accident before it happens and diagnosing Carl's heart condition by eyeballing him. Through the power of permanently altering his brain, Eddie has achieved the ultimate life goal: basically being on drugs all the time, but for free and without getting thrown out of Arby's.

In its final moments, Limitless teaches its audience the most important lesson of all: "The real nootropic drug was in your heart all along." As we learn at the end of the movie, Eddie didn't need the drugs after all. (Well, maybe he did for a little while.)