The Limits Of Control

Jim Jarmusch keeps testing our Limits

THE LIMITS OF CONTROL written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, with Isaach De Bankolé, Paz de la Huerta, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael García Bernal, Hiam Abbass and Bill Murray. An Alliance release. 113 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (May 22). For venues and times, see movies. Rating: NNN

Jim Jarmusch’s the limits of control is an action movie with no action.


It’s about the silences between chases and shootouts, the hours of waiting that come before an operative reaches his target. And at the same time, it’s about nothing at all.

The Limits Of Control follows its nameless, virtually silent protagonist, played by Isaach De Bankolé, as he travels through Spain on an undefined mission.

He moves with purpose, but where is he going? What is he doing at all those cafés? Who are those odd people (Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Youki Kudoh, Gael García Bernal and Hiam Abbass) who keep engaging him in conversation? Why aren’t any of them actually Spanish? Why doesn’t he ever touch the nekkid lady (Paz de la Huerta) who spends her nights snuggled up to him in his Madrid hotel room?

There are answers to those questions, but they’re purely subtextual Jarmusch just isn’t interested in delivering a conventional thriller.

He’s subverting the genre from within – or thinks he is, anyway, since the movie’s collection of ambiguities ultimately leads us somewhere awfully conventional.

Once The Limits Of Control makes its trajectory clear, the air goes out of its fuzzy political allegory. And don’t expect anything resembling emotional involvement. Jarmusch’s films generally run a little cooler than room temperature, but this one’s positively frigid.

That said, I didn’t mind sitting through the thing, even as I felt myself tiring of it in the final reel.

A filmmaker as idiosyncratic and expressive as Jarmusch deserves a little indulgence at this point in his career.

But if his next movie’s about RoboCop going in for an oil change, someone’s getting slapped.

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