What would you do if you discovered a pill which made you smarter? That’s the intriguing premise faced by Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a wannabe writer and all-round waster whose girlfriend has just called it a day on their floundering relationship. A chance encounter with an old acquaintance brings him into contact with a new experimental drug called NZT which unleashes in the user the ability to use their brain to its full capacity. It turns Morra into a focused, confident and highly intellectual individual with a capacity to learn anything (he can master new languages seemingly within a matter of hours).

He’s able to complete his long-in-gestation novel almost immediately and begins making friends in high and powerful places. Realising the true potential of his newly-acquired powers, he turns his attention to the stock market and in no time at all, is able to make incredible financial leaps and bounds. This brings him to the attention of business mogul Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) who see’s Morra’s talents as a possible channel for making vast amounts of money.

Things begin to take a turn for the worst however, when Morra is faced with the debilitating and potentially fatal side effects of the wonder drug when his supply begins to run dangerously low. He also finds himself having to contend with a number of seedy characters who are in pursuit of him, all due to his dalliances with that magic pill.

Essentially a flashing-looking Twilight Zone episode stretched out to 90 minutes or so, for the most part, Limitless gets away with it. This is partly due to the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and director Neil Burger manages to strike the right balance between the human drama and the more overtly fantasy elements. It’s also to his credit that he’s interested in exploring the potential ramifications of becoming an addict and the dangers involved in that lifestyle choice, amongst the more throwaway, flashy elements.

Perhaps to be expected with a film dealing with a mild-altering substance, the visual aspects of the film are handled well, and the stylised lighting flourishes which occur when Morra is under the influence of NZT are effectively realised and lend the film a unique look – from the washed-out, pale world prior to life under the influence of the wonder drug, to the warm and sumptuous visual palette after the pill has been ingested. The fractured and warped-looking jumps in time which Morra experiences as one of the many side-effects are also impressive and suitable Fincher-esque in their conception.

Having provided able support in films like The Hangover and last year’s big screen adaptation of The A-Team, this is the first opportunity for Cooper to carry a film and he does so in an effortless manner. His has a charming and relaxed screen presence which really has you rooting for him, even when his new found abilities bring out less than appealing character traits. De Niro shows up and does his now mandatory solid acting turn™ which although impressive, is hardly a stretch for the famed actor. Australian actress and Morra’s lover interest, Abbie Cornish, doesn’t fare quite so well and is sadly underused in a role which, from the outset, feels a little underwritten anyway. Given her powerful and effecting performance as John Keats muse in last year’s Bright Star, this part of more of a step back, than forward, for the actress.

Limitless can get contrived and a little ridiculous at times (Morra’s gloriously over-the-top means of escaping the villains towards the end perhaps strains the films’ credibility factor a little too much), but it’s never less than entertaining and (like its protagonist) it just about manages to keep things together until the satisfying and thought-provoking ending.

Limtless hits UK cinemas next Wednesday, 23rd March.