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**Warning: Spoilers for both book and movie!**
The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn (2001)
Limitless directed by Neil Burger (2011)
Limitless is a movie I have seen multiple time, so I went into this book with a pretty clear memory of what happens in the book. Initially, the movie follows the book pretty close. When I was looking it up on Goodreads, a reviewer made a comment about the book and movie saying, there’s a reason why the book is called The Dark Fields and the movie is Limitless. This comment is what helped me read on when at times I felt like the book moved a bit too slow. I was anxious to see how it ends, because clearly it won’t be the same as the movie!
Before we get into all those changes though, here is a quick synopsis.
Eddie is basically living a dead-end life. Then one day he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, who used to be his coke dealer. He is now dealing a new drug which he says is FDA approved and legal, called MDT. Eddie takes it and it is like Adderall, but even better. He not only is able to focus on something until it is finished, but he can also comprehend things that would have been unfathomable before, he can read at a lighting pace and comprehends everything he reads. When he’s on it, he always has to be focusing on something and working his brain.
He goes back to buy more, but the guy has been killed and his place ransacked. The people didn’t find the drugs though, but Eddie does.
He now has like 500 pills or so and gets to a point where he is popping two at a time and is constantly on it. He starts having black outs though, and this worries him, so he stops. Then he finds out that when he combines MDT with this other allergy medication, it balances out and he no longer has black outs. He then starts taking three at a time and is working his way, very quickly, to the top of the business world as he spearheads a major merger which will make him 50 million.
In the end, the pills are stolen from him by the same people who stole them from the dealer. He thinks he might have killed someone while he was blacked out, and near the end, he kills a Russian crime boss who was also on MDT.
I’m going to stop here and save the ending reveal till later.
Thought on the book
There were times where the book dragged a bit. Especially when talking about stocks and things like that. I get he has become a stock wiz, but I personally have no interest in knowing the details on how that is done. When he short sells in the day trading office is fine, but other parts it was just so bleh. Reading stuff like that puts me to sleep.
There is another part where he stops taking MDT, but then gets on it again. As he reexperiences everything, it felt a bit like de-jevu. You’re just telling us all the same stuff you told us earlier in the book when he started MDT for the first time!
There were also a lot of names to keep track of. In my opinion, if it’s not an integral character, we don’t even need to know their name! Tossing too many names out, the reader not knowing which ones matter the most and needs to be kept track of, so I try and keep track of all of them. Then I just end up being like, wait a minute which guy was this again and who does he work for? It wasn’t terrible, but there were just a few names too many.
Having said all that, it was an interesting book and well written. You really feel the anxiety, the energy, the urgency, the panics, the excitement, the highs and the lows Eddie feels at various points in the story. Even though at time he went into too much detail which I found boring, there were other times he knew he didn’t need to describe things step by step and just did a broad stroke explaining something that happens.
Overall, the movie is really well done. Especially the camera angles used throughout and the way they color is very faded and drab when he is sober. Then when he is on MDT, everything is bright and clear. Leslie Dixon is the screenwriter who adapted the novel, and she sold it under the condition that no changes be made to it. I would have bet money that there had been an alternate ending to the movie, but this makes it seem like the movie ending is the one Dixon wrote, considering she didn’t allow for changes.
The voiceover is also really well done.
Bradley Cooper is amazing as Eddie. He plays both the dead-end Eddie and the overachieving, quick talking Eddie, excellently. Especially when he is doing that rapid fire talk. His character is so cocky, so that gets annoying, but I’m assuming as the audience we are supposed to find him annoying at times.
This role was originally going to go to Shia LeBeouf, but he injured his hand and had to drop out. I think he would have been really good in this as well, so really, it’s a win win either way.
Abbie Cornish is in the role of Eddie’s girlfriend Lindy. She is an actress for me with the familiar name but can’t think what I know her from. However, I looked her up and she has been in a number of notable movies.
Robert DeNiro is of course wonderful as the business tycoon Carl Van Loon.
Anna Friel plays Eddies ex-wife, Melissa. She isn’t in much, but I love Friel, and she was great in what she was in.
In the book the pills are call MDT, but the movie called it NZT. Just to keep things simple, I will just refer to them as MDT.
In each Eddie starts having blackouts which get worse and worse. He tries to get off it, to stop the blackouts, which he does in the movie too, but things don’t go well. In the book he was chubby, but rapidly loses weight when on MDT. Then when he’s off it, he gains weight back quickly.
Anyway, he finds a guy who had gotten off MDT, and he tells him that when he had told Vernon he was quitting, Vernon told the guy that had figured out the blackouts. You just had to combine it with these over the counter allergy meds, and they counter act each other and stop the blackouts. Plus needed to remember to eat.
In the movie he solves the blackout problem simply by remembering to eat, and not drinking alcohol.
There’s a quote from the book I found interesting and which I thought rang true. He is looking through Vernon’s notebook and realizing these people were all clients using MDT. He says,
“The realization that these people had all used MDT at one time or another, and were maybe still using it, came as quite a shock to me. It also bruised my ego a little, because although it was clearly irrational to think that no one besides myself had ever experienced the amazing effects of MDT, I nevertheless felt that my experience of it was in some way unique and more authentic than that of anyone else who might have tried it. This slightly indignant sense of ownership lingered in my mind as I read through the names in the notebook one more time…”
Having some intense, crazy, potentially life changing moment, specifically with some kind of substance, can be weird to think that others have had a similar experience. Then pride kicks in, thinking that maybe others experience it, but “I” am different and am having an extra special experience. When really, no, the high of the drug wants you to feel special, but you’re no different than the others that have tried it.
The movie shows more of how charismatic he is when on MDT and the exciting people he meets and his travels. The book definitely shows this and says how he notices that some people hang on his every word and don’t want the conversation with him to end. But he also talks about being too much and abrasive. He punches guy in a bar but can’t remember why. He says he was a difficult customer at restaurants because he would be making all these inquiries about the food and requesting custom dishes and drinks. Then there’s the part where he may have hit a woman on the head and killed her. The movie doesn’t seem to show this side, aside from the potential murder which the movie kind of glosses over.
In the movie Eddie has a girlfriend, Lindy, who we see him get dumped by (though she is very nice about it). In the book he references the girl who dumped him, but he isn’t trying to get her back the way he was in the book. Even when he is on MDT. The book focuses more on Melissa. They also have this other girl, Ginny Van Loon who is Carl Van Loon’s daughter. Nothing happens between her and Eddie, but he has a crush on her because she reminds him of what Melissa had been like back in the day.
In the book, when he finds Vernon dead he calls Melissa and leaves her a message telling her. She calls later and asks if Vernon had given him any pills and Eddie lies and says no. Then the New York Post publishes an article about him doing his day trading, but it isn’t written in a nice way because Eddie told the journalist off, saying he didn’t want to be interviewed. Melissa sees this, realizes Eddie is on MDT and calls him up and they meet.
In the movie, the article doesn’t say anything negative about him because he appears to be eating up the attention and is fine doing an interview.
In the movie Lindy gets back with Eddie when he turns his life around. Then when he tries to slow down the MDT, he is withdrawing and goes to her office and asks her to get it for him. On her way back to the office she calls saying she is being followed and the guy starts chasing her. He has her trapped and Eddie tells Lindy to take one of the pills and it’ll help her. (In the book it says it took like 20 minutes to kick in, but the in the movie it’s much faster).
She takes it, is able to save herself, gets back to the office and puts one in his mouth. We are then shown the next day and Eddie is saying how far the two of them can go on MDT. She says she doesn’t want to be part of it. He’s like what’s the big deal I’m still myself. She says, “Really? I wasn’t myself when I was on it. I did things I would never do.” And they once again break up.
I really like this part. Substances hit different people differently and while Eddie may have loved MDT, it doesn’t mean anyone who takes it will love it. And the fact that he isn’t truly himself, he’s an altered version whether he acknowledges it or not.
In the book, as I said he doesn’t have a girlfriend, just Ginny who he has a crush on, and she never does MDT.
The potential murder
In the book and movie there is the whole part where he has a “night out” and blacks out for large parts of it. In the book he remembers hanging out with a Hispanic artist and his wife named Donatella. He has a fragmented memory of being in a hotel with her but nothing specific.
The next day he is at lunch with Carl, waiting for Hank Atwood when he overhears two guys talking about Donatella being attacked and now in a comma. They say the main suspect is some guy that was seeing leaving the hotel with a limp. Eddie of course has a limp, and later in the news he sees they are looking for a man named Thomas Cole. Eddie had given a fake name, so luckily for him his real name isn’t out on the news.
Donatella eventually dies in the hospital and it is turned in to a full murder investigation.
Later, things with the merger are on track, and Van Loon says it will they will hold a press conference and announce the merger. Eddie sees that the press conference is going to take place in the same hotel Donatella was murdered.
The next 24 hours Eddie is worried and distracted. When he gets to the hotel he goes upstairs to see if he really had been here. He recognizes the hotel hallway and knows without a doubt, he had been here the night she was hit. He also had visions and dreams of what happened, in one of which he gets upset at something she says about America and he hits her head with a vase or some such thing.
The merger is broadcasted on tv, and there is a moment when the camera pans the whole group and Eddie can be seen. Later, it shows this clip in the news and say he is identified as Thomas Cole and is really Eddie Spinolla and they are looking for him in regard to this murder, as well as the murder of the Russian guy who is found in his apartment. He sees all this in the news when he is somewhere upstate, in a hotel and watching tv. We never do find out if he without a doubt killed Donatella, but it kind of seems like he may have.
In the movie, he is meeting with Carl and sees the face of a woman he had seen the night before on tv. He hires a top-notch lawyer and gets away scott free. He also doesn’t seem to be bothered by the fact he may have killed someone. In the end, he kills the Russian guys (by the way, in the book he doesn’t drink the blood of the Russian guy in order to get MDT, nor does the Russian guy inject MDT, he just takes it in pill form), and the voiceover says that his apartment had been owned by an arms dealer, and so the whole thing with them is pinned on that guy and Eddie isn’t in trouble for it at all.
This does beg the question-in the book why didn’t Eddie hire a lawyer? This was happening before he actually got any money, and he was only able to get the condo because of a loan from Van Loon. But still, seems like he could have gotten one.
Speaking of his condo, in the book he goes to look at it (while on MDT) and the first time he is there checking it out and hears it is 9 million, he starts to have a panic attack. He is dealing with numbers he could never have imagined and is overwhelmed. I liked this touch because I think it would be an overwhelming thing. In the movie he seems unphased, or maybe a better way to say it, he adjusted instantly to these high numbers and fancy living.
Carl Van Loon and movie end
In the movie and book Eddie plays an integral part in the merger with Van Loon. Despite Eddies erratic behavior, Carl sticks with him because when he is around, he is obviously on top of everything. There is the meeting in the movie where he isn’t on MDT and is off, and he tells Carl he had had a fever. In the book Carl never sees Eddie off MDT. When he leaves the meeting after overhearing the man, he tells Carl he had to leave because he has a stomach condition and was in the hospital. He also tells Carl he was on a new medication for it, and it was making him act erratic.
In the book though, the day after the merger is when Eddie’s name is released in connection with two murders. Because of this, the merger in canceled and their stock has taken a dive. This is another thing Eddie sees while he is in the hotel room upstate.
In the movie the merger goes off without a hitch. As they’re planning the merger, there is a part where Carl says he hopes Eddie doesn’t just ditch him when all this is done. Eddie says well I have to move on in order to learn and grow. Carl then says, “That you would even think that would only show me how unprepared you are to be on your own. I mean, you do know you’re a freak? Your deductive powers are a gift from God or chance…or whoever wrote your life-script. A gift, not earned. You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers. You’re careless with those powers, you flaunt them, and you throw them around like a brat with his trust-fund. You haven’t had to climb up all the greasy little rungs. You haven’t been bored blind at the fundraisers. You haven’t done the time and that first marriage to the girl with the right father. You think you can leap over all in a single bound. You haven’t had to bribe or charm or threat your way to a seat at that table. You don’t know how to assess your competition because you haven’t competed. Don’t make me your competition”
I liked this part, putting Eddie in his place. Of course, it doesn’t stick.
In the end of the movie, Eddie pays a guy in a lab to create more MDT. His own stash is stolen by Hank Atwood’s attorney because Atwood himself was on it and now doesn’t have any due to Vernon’s death. The lawyer doesn’t give it to Atwood though, he keeps it for himself, but Eddie is able to get it back.
In the end he is running for senate and Carl visits him. He bought out a pharmaceutical company and tells Eddie he knows he is on MDT. He is blackmailing him kind of, because he shut down Eddies lab and if Eddie wants more, he will have to be in Carl’s back pocket essentially. Eddie then reveals that he is off MDT, and the last year they have been tweaking it and got it to the point where he was able to permanent change his brain to get to a point where he no longer needs it. He sort of threatens Carl, and that’s the end of that. He then goes to lunch where he meets Lindy. So apparently, she’s not bothered anymore about MDT? I guess if he is genuinely off of it, then that’s why she’s back with him. But still, they should have cleared that up a bit.
After the merger, Eddie goes back to his apartment and sees someone has gone through all his things, found the MDT and taken it. He then gets a phone call.
Before we get to the phone call, I should also explain that Eddie had been calling various people in Vernon’s black book. Most people were sick or dead, but he does talk to and meet up with a guy who had taken it but stopped. This is the guy tells him about the allergy medicine. He then finds Vernon’s associate, who had made the drug. However, the guy was killed in a hit and run, and his lab was shut down. Eddie then realizes there is a connection with this Boston based pharmaceutical company Vernon had been keeping track of. He gets in contact with a guy about that.
When the phone rings, it is someone from the company. They say he went too far getting in contact with this other reporter guy and had to put an end to it. They took the MDT, and now Eddie will have to withdraws and eventually die. They say that he was very useful to watch, because no one had done as much on MDT as he had. No one had taken as much as him either. They hang up and Eddie waits for them to call back. He is convinced the can bribe them, so he gets $500,000.
Stuff with the Russian guy happens, and Eddie takes the last five pills that guy had had.
He then drives upstate and stops at Melissa’s house. He puts a not on the briefcase and gives it to her. He doesn’t talk directly to her though because her daughter answers the door.
He then goes to the hotel room, types up his story which we have been reading, and then it ends, and we assume he must have died.
In 2015 there was a Limitless tv show. It has as similar premise, a dead beat that gets the drug and changes his life. Though I guess he actually does some good because he helps the FBI solve crimes. Bradley Cooper has a reoccuring character as US Senator Edward Morra who provides the main character with a shot that helps counter act the negative side effects of MDT. The show only had one season, and I haven’t watched it but it has a decent rating on IMDb.
Book or Movie
To be perfectly honest, I hate the movie ending. Eddie seems to have no remorse and gets everything he’s ever wanted. But maybe that’s a realistic take, especially since he’s a dishonest person who ends up in politics. And he gets Lindy back! They really should have done some explaining there because I liked that Lindy didn’t want to be part of his MDT world. In the book, after a business diner, Eddie is contemplating the future and decides he will get into politics. This of course doesn’t happen, but it does for movie Eddie.
I liked that Eddie makes up for the things he has done and give the money he has to Melissa who is struggling as a single mother who is dealing with post-MDT life. It also seems fitting that he apparently dies. Now I enjoy a book where all ends well just as much as the next person (okay, maybe not quite as much, but I do enjoy when things work out for the characters) but the movie everything was just tied up so neatly. Too neatly! I know it’s not like he never worked for anything in his life, so he paid his dues to some extent. But then again, as DeNiro’s character said, he hasn’t had to climb up the ladder, and deal with the nitty gritty of getting into the business and political world. It’s not like he’s even doing that much “work” on MDT, because things seem easy when he’s on it. When it comes down to it, I don’t like the ending because it isn’t fair. So again, maybe that makes it a fitting end. Lots of people get things handed to them when they don’t deserve it, and don’t need to make up for the wrongs they’ve done. As movie Eddie says though, there’s very little in life that 40 million dollars won’t fix. Which sadly an accurate representation of business and government.
Having said all that about the movie, it is very entertaining and well done. It’s one I have seen multiple times and will watch again in the future.
The book was satisfying because Eddie is remorseful and is trying to right his wrongs. I also kind of like books and movies with a not so happy ending. And it seems fair that he wasn’t able to get away with all he hoped to. Part of you feels bad for him, but maybe that’s also why I liked the end, because there is a part of you that has started to like him more and that makes his death all the more tragic.
Ultimately, I don’t intend on reading the book again, but I would watch the movie again. Yet I hate the movie ending but like the book ending. Guess it’s a tough call. If you read this blog, then I would say stick to the movie and skip the book. I’ve told you how the book ends, so you can just keep that ending in mind as you watch the movie. If you choose to read the book though it certainly wouldn’t be a waste of time because for the most part, I did enjoy it.