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Limitless

The movie “Limitless”, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro, is about an unsuccessful writer named Morra, played by Cooper, who takes a drug named NZT which makes his brain work better. He finishes his book after only a few days. He learns several foreign languages. He seduces beautiful girls quickly and easily. Then he borrows money from a loan shark and invests it in the stock market and every one of his investments profits. Everything seems to go well for him, but then he wakes up with no recollection of how he spent the previous eighteen hours. He then loses his mental edge, and falls ill, thus embarrassing himself while meeting with an important businessman named Van Loon, played by de Niro. It seems that he murdered a woman during the eighteen hours that he forgot. What is more, the loan-shark is after him. He repays what he owes, but the loan shark wants more and refuses to leave him alone. Then another man chases his girlfriend and kills two men who try to protect her. I could tell more, but I do not want to reveal the ending.

Limitless is, in my opinion, a good movie. It made me desire the mental abilities that Cooper’s character gained when he took the pill. Though it was a good movie, it was not medieval, so something can be good without being medieval.

There were two things about the movie that made me think of the Middle Ages.

#1. In the Middle Ages personal names were symbolic. My name is “Miller”, but I have never owned nor ever have I worked in a mill. My first or given name is “Shawn”, which does not relate to anything other than the fact that it is Irish and some of my ancestors came to America from Ireland. In the Middle Ages, however, if someone was named Miller, it meant that he operated a mill. Thomas Aquinas, in his Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, explains the meaning of every one of the forty-two names of all the ancestors of Jesus Christ listed in the first chapter. To them, names had meanings; they were not arbitrary words attached to people to facilitate identification and communication. This makes me think of the names of the two main characters in “Limitless”. They are both very intelligent men, yet their names imply insanity. “Morra” is like the Greek word for fool, and “Van Loon” is Dutch for “wage”, which would be appropriate because the de Niro character hires Morra to work for him and pays him a wage; but I do not speak Dutch, so when I read “Loon” I think of a lunatic. Both Morra and Loon mean pretty nearly the same thing: crazy. Isn’t it ironic that these two highly intelligent characters would both be called crazy?

#2. The Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops reviewed this movie and their review can be found at http://www.usccb.org/movies/l/limitless2011.shtml. This is medieval, in that during the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church judged cultural phenomenon. The Church, at that time, was the master of the arts, which was understandable considering the fact that it paid for much of the art that was produced during the centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Modern Age. Medieval churches were full of art; other buildings were not. The review is rather interesting, as the reviews by the U.S.C.C.B. normally are. The movie “Limitless” is declared “morally offensive,” but not because of any nudity or sexuality (there is no nudity and very little sexuality in the film), nor for graphic violence. Here is what the bishops wrote, “"Limitless" seems to apply its title to Morra's moral status, as he blazes a trail of homicidal violence that entails no discernable consequences. Once fueled by NZT, so it would seem, Morra becomes a Nietzschean superman above mere right and wrong.” The U.S.C.C.B. has a high opinion for the American people, for it assumes that most Americans know what a Nietzchean superman is. The movie is declared morally offensive because the main character does bad things yet is not punished by negative consequences. Personally, I disagree with that assessment. Morra did get sick, which is a negative consequence of taking the NZT pills, and he was almost murdered, which must have made him feel bad, and the “trail of homicidal violence” was committed by those trying to kill him, not by him. He might have not killed anyone. He might have killed a woman during the eighteen hours that he forgot, but he does not know and we the audience do not know either.