Human Engineering: Our Review of ‘Smart Drugs’

Posted in Movies, TV by - May 15, 2019
Human Engineering: Our Review of ‘Smart Drugs’

What if you could be a better version of yourself?

Director Ann Shin tackles that very question in Smart Drugs and the world of bio-hacking; which is basically the variety of different methods on how to improve human performance.  It’s an interesting trip down the rabbit hole which shows that there’s ultimately so much tinkering you can do the human body machine before it really starts to have an impact on the human soul.

Smart Drugs follows futurist and keynote speaker, Nik Badminton as he learns about the growing world of cognitive enhancement supplements in an attempt to ‘hack’ his way to a better life.

Across the globe, university students, lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs are taking drugs and supplements to sharpen their focus and help them work longer in an increasingly competitive society. In Smart Drugs, Nik journeys down the rabbit-hole of nootropics and biohacking to evaluate whether or not this highly controversial social movement actually holds water. Throughout the course of the film, Nik becomes a self-appointed guinea pig and fully immerses himself in the world of brain and body optimization, taking cues from entrepreneurs, doctors and fellow biohackers along the way. Using his non-stop schedule with back-to-back speaking engagements and media appearances in Toronto, Vancouver and San Francisco as a gauge for success, Nik tests their promises of a smarter and more productive life for himself as he pushes his mind and body to the limits.

While it plays a little drier then you might have hoped for in moments, Smart Drugs is an interesting trip down the rabbit hole of self-improvement and how with anything in life, too much of anything can be a bad thing.

Shin is a skilled documentarian and knows how to craft a solid narrative as she gives us an interesting and fairly unvarnished look at the subject.  Seeing it all through the eyes of her subject Nik Badminton was an especially nice touch as he is a subject with energy and a natural charisma that actually allows us as an audience to gravitate towards him.

It also helps that this just wasn’t a movie about science, side effects and everything else in-between.  With Nik as guinea pig for the narrative, she allows us to walk through some of the highs that seem to work great, the silly and the lows as we see some of the costs that Nik has to pay during this experiment.  He doesn’t quite put himself at risk a la Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me but Shin allows us to see that when we optimize and tinker with the performance of the human brain and body, it can ultimately be draining from the human spirit and it’s so important to understand the need to strike a balance.

Ultimately, Smart Drugs is a smart little film on the subject as it not only educates us on the ways that are available for human optimization but reminds us that we can only push the engine that runs each and every one of us so far and that we have to find ways that optimize our heart and the human spirit while we rev up our brains and metabolisms at the same time.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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