Limbo (1999) - Rotten Tomatoes

Limbo (1999)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Alaska is a land rich with possibilities and second chances. Against the backdrop of this vast, challenging wilderness, LIMBO tells the story of people trying to reinvent themselves in America's last frontier. Set in the rugged islands of Southeastern Alaska, LIMBO is the story of Joe Gastineau, a fisherman traumatized by an accident at sea years before. Into Joe's land-locked life comes singer Donna de Angelo and her disaffected daughter Noelle. When Joe's fast-talking half-brother Bobby returns to town and asks Joe for a favor, the lives of the three characters are forever altered.more
Rating: R (for language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: John Sayles
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 23, 1999


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Critic Reviews for Limbo

All Critics (70) | Top Critics (16)

Full Review… | March 22, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Detroit News
Top Critic

Sharply uneven, John Sayles' 12th film features many of his thematic motifs but the ambiguous ending is problematic.

Full Review… | July 2, 2009

Like so much of his work, Limbo feels like two films - one agitprop, the other melodrama - but these two strains are unified in the film's title and (as always) setting.

Full Review… | September 17, 2004
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Proximate politics replaced by archetype and what Wordsworth would have called "the story of place."

Full Review… | July 6, 2002
Film Freak Central

Audience Reviews for Limbo


An ex-fisherman falls in love with a singer, but their relationship is tested when they are stranded in the Alaskan hinterland.
This film is two films in one. The first is a continuation of Silver City set in Alaska, and the second is a mildly compelling survival tale. I side with the anti-corporate political points director John Sayles elaborates on in the first part of the film, but like Silver City and anything Richard Linklater has ever done, the politics seem preachy and aren't especially compelling as a story. The survival tale is pretty good, but it doesn't reach the levels that films like The Edge or even the less compelling 127 Hours.
Other critics have called the ending of the film "contrived" and a "cop-out," and only because they have commented on it, I'll weigh in with my agreement. Sure, the ending fits with the title and maybe even the film's theme (this is a place in between modernity and tradition), but I ultimately just rolled my eyes during the credits.
Overall, I think fans of John Sayles know what they're getting, and most people would only find this film because they like Sayles.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

John Sayles' Limbo is a fascinating film on many levels. It's a drama in the truest sense of the word, with interesting characters, relate-able situations, realistic world building, and character dynamics that interweave seamlessly to create a really compelling story.

At the same time, Limbo is markedly different from other dramas. It utilizes a unique narrative format, unconventional in its approach. It shifts between characters, juxtaposed with other story-lines, but all in an inner-connected and coherent way. So unconventional is this approach, that Limbo almost mesmerizes the viewer with its story and themes. We are never so much concerned about the plot developments as we are the characters themselves, and how they are feeling in any given moment, a hallmark of excellent direction, and any intelligent drama.

As such, Limbo's script is both intelligent and often ingenious. It clearly has a point, but underscores it in a very subtle way. The dialogue took a while to get used to, but remains consistent and true to itself, in such a sort of stylized way, that it becomes part of the film.

The acting in Limbo is also quite strong, with a terrific ensemble cast. This is headlined mainly by the underrated David Strathairn, with one of the best dialed-down (as his characters often are) performances of his career. He is matched well with Mary Mastranton and Vanessa Martinez, in an especially impressive performance.

The one aspect of Limbo that some are bound not to like is it's ambiguous ending. Some may look at it as a cop-out. Such criticisms are valid to an extent, although I found it daring. Had the film not earned the moment, I'd be upset, but, as it were, it felt in-line with what the film was trying to convey, an enormous sense of uncertainly, with both characters and the physical world.

4/5 Stars

Jeffrey Meyers
Jeffrey Meyers

Super Reviewer

An absorbing story about appealing, rounded characters. The more you think about the way it ends, the more you realise that any other ending would betray the purpose of the story.

Robert Fearon

Super Reviewer

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