The Limits of Control (2009)
The Limits of Control (2009)

Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: May 1st, 2009 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jim Jarmusch Actors: Isaach DeBankole, Bill Murray, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Paz de la Huerta, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jean-Francois Stevenin




hat begins as an exercise in existentialism and surrealism graduates into the amateurish experiment of a hitman procedural – which is ultimately a slow evolution to an excruciating, two-hour waiting game. Disturbingly, a profound explanation of the hopelessly peculiar events being witnessed never arrives. Reality may be arbitrary according to director Jim Jarmusch, but cohesive storytelling and a reason for observing his art is not. Like a jigsaw puzzle without a border, too many pieces of the mystery are missing to affect its audience with intrigue over confusion. This already painfully crawling Lynchian drama becomes a torturous slideshow of self-reflective nonsense. If the best films are like dreams you’re not really sure you’ve had, then “The Limits of Control” is like a nightmare that you remember all too clearly.

A man (Isaach De Bankole) is hired for a job that requires both creativity and a keen perception of realities. Trading matchboxes, cryptic messages, and existential perspectives with strangers assigned to find him, including a platinum blonde film enthusiast (Tilda Swinton), a Japanese science muse (Youki Kudoh), and a music-loving girl who parades around in the buff (Paz de la Huerta), the loner works his way to the ultimate goal. It is a destination with an outcome he has always known, though the hiccups in his journey are of constant perplexity.

Since there’s no story to speak of (or at least not one based in a non-paradoxical half-dream, half-subconscious world), the easiest thing to admire is the style – sharp suits, variegated costumes, film noir roles, and complimentary nakedness by a character credited only as “Nude.” Tilda Swinton’s briefly seen persona practically spells it out for audiences as she ponders movies: “Sometimes I like it in films when people just sit there, not saying anything.” She also mentions her love of pictures that focus on “the little details of life.” While giving insight into some of the ideas unfolding onscreen, the general, gross lack of definition during other moments of significance drowns out whatever brief strands of understanding viewers might have temporarily grasped.

It’s brooding and as slowly paced as the calming techniques practiced by the nameless main character, taking time to focus on scenery, food, traffic, and architecture. All of the details are an elaborate setup for the multitude of questions being stockpiled, except that no answers ever come. With so many minutes spent studying various elements continually referenced amongst the colorful array of supporting characters, certainly some sort of meaning exists. If Jarmusch’s intent was to demonstrate the very limited control the audience has over unfolding events and the reasoning that surrounds them, he succeeded. But that accomplishment also marks an utter failure in regards to producing a movie that can entertain someone outside of the director’s mindset and his appreciation for his own cinematic witchcraft.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10