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The Limits of Control (2009)



Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 123
Fresh: 54 | Rotten: 69

A minimalist exercise in not much of anything, The Limits of Control is a tedious viewing experience with little reward.


Average Rating: 4.7/10
Critic Reviews: 34
Fresh: 10 | Rotten: 24

A minimalist exercise in not much of anything, The Limits of Control is a tedious viewing experience with little reward.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 33,941

My Rating

Movie Info

The story follows a mysterious loner, a stranger to all, whose activities and workings remain meticulously outside the law. He is currently in the process of completing a job and trusts no one, while his objectives initially remain unrevealed. His journey, paradoxically both intently focused and dreamlike, takes him not only across Spain but also through his own consciousness. The film uses no names and refers to all characters by description and appearances only.


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Hiam Abbass, Jim Jarmusch

Nov 17, 2009


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All Critics (124) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (54) | Rotten (69) | DVD (5)

A work of dazzling formal discipline that riffs on the simple notion of repetition and variation.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is indulgent filmmaking at its most pretentious.

June 3, 2009 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie's main pleasure lies in the early scenes, which mix the filmmaker's familiar deadpan humor with an Antonioni-like sense of arid emptiness and conundrum.

May 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Distracted by the minutiae of the rituals he has constructed, Jarmusch seems unconcerned about making a point, or even constructing a coherent story.

May 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Paint drying. Photosynthesis. Rush-hour traffic. All these activities would be more entertaining to watch -- and probably speedier -- than Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control.

May 22, 2009 | Comment (1)
Associated Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What a drag it is to descend from coolly blank to boringly meaningful.

May 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

...a Zen gangster film, a mandala that scatters itself at the end. Its very quietude and uneventfulness force you into the moment every moment...

March 13, 2013 Full Review Source:

Nothing more than Jarmusch's worst film since Night on Earth.

August 26, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

By surprising us with repetitions, Jarmusch suggests that we shouldn't take these events as literal, traditional storytelling. This is play -- serious play.

May 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

Offers an astonishingly sensuous experience

February 28, 2010 Full Review Source: CinePassion

It's beautifully wrapped in art, philosophical musings, mystery and film lore.

January 12, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Cool, handsome, self-assured... but, as the existentialists might say, what's the bloody point?

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It's a film, Jim, but not as we know it: a meandering bad trip through a gorgeously shot Spain that's really only accessible to tenacious Jarmusch enthusiasts.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4

It's bold, confrontational cinema that will, as its author intended, have you questioning at every turn just what it is you expect from a modern movie, and more importantly, why.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

This shallow conundrum is at once a dull thriller and a humourless comedy, the sort of colossally self-indulgent and boring film that only a successful and revered director could make - or be allowed to make.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Guardian

If you need a working definition for bad Jarmusch, look no further than The Limits of Control, which functions more as a wilful act of self-pleasuring than worthwhile experiment.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

This is a demanding film that will no doubt fuel the art-house naysayers, yet set against a vivid Spanish canvas Jarmusch's poetic pretensions become not only explicable but palatable as well.

December 11, 2009
Little White Lies

The showdown has the feel of Mission: Impossible remade for the ICA crowd and what might have been a cheeky distraction for 90 minutes is just plain tedious approaching the two-hour mark.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

Jarmusch's film captivates stylistically, and at least some credit's due to his less-is-more plotting. But extensive introversion leaves it gasping for air, almost vanishing up itself.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Plot isn't in it. This is an essay in style, in which a great American director is transplanted to Southern Spain.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Uncut Magazine [UK]
Uncut Magazine [UK]

A ponderous and pretentious thriller that's noticeably light on thrills.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

This may well be the most longwinded, boring and pretentious film ever made.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Mail [UK]
Daily Mail [UK]

Jarmusch gives us a film designed to test the limits of our patience.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Mirror [UK]
Daily Mirror [UK]

You have to take sides. Go see the film, go judge. Either this is plotless rubbish designed to inflame tabloid newspapers. Or it is the future of cinema, and Jarmusch has got there before the rest of us.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Jarmusch's characteristic indifference to narrative excitement makes it hard to love - and may indeed return you to being agnostic.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Independent

Audience Reviews for The Limits of Control

I think my friend and fellow Flixster reviewer rthornhill said it best with his take on this film: "slow, repetitious, minimalistic..... yet strangely intriguing".

This is another low key and atmospheric mood piece by Jim Jarmusch, although I think all of his films could be described that way. This follows a lone wolf criminal type on assignment in Spain. He keeps a pretty strict and meticulous routine, and is pretty set in his ways. Along the way he meets an assortment of individuals who give him information and conversation about a variety of topics (all of it pretty vague and cryptic) that serve as both part of his work, and as things to think about.

Even as a fan of Jarmusch's work, I found this one to be pretty tough to sit through. It's slow, quiet, largely uneventful, but still oddly captivating and mesmerizing. I definitely wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for Jarmusch neophytes.

Even though the film was apparently written in a very short amount of time (and it shows), it is very well shot, features beautiful locations, and has a top notch ensemble cast, even though most are only in it for a bit, and none of them are really fleshed out. I also really dug the soundtrack, with most of it being done by Japanese experimental/ambient art rock group Boris. The music is very fitting, and is nice to listen to, especially if you want undistracting background tunes.

I suppose the performances are fine. I mean, we don't really know much about the characters or their place in the world, but I guess that might be the point. Jarmusch is a fan of sparseness and existentialism after all. It's sad that Isaach De Bankole will probably never be known to the mainstream, but he fares well in the indie world, and that doesn't change here. I also liked seeing Paz de la Huerta, but that might be if only for the fact that, for whatever reason, her character is always shown either totally nude or wearing nothing but a transparent raincoat. Bernal and Hurt and Murray are fine too I guess.

This is the sort of thing you really need to be in the right mood and frame of mind for, but if you are, then you might dig its deliberate execution. That being said, I was mostly tuned into this film's frequency, but the ending does lack a much needed climax to end on.
May 24, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Jim Jarmusch has always been a director that's very particular in his structure, his pace and his mood. Some of his films are more successful than others and often they are not everybody's cup of tea. So, if your not a fan, avoid this one completely.
A mysterious, nameless assassin (Isaach De Bankole) travels across Spain on some kind of criminal mission. Wandering throughout the picturesque city he comes across an incalculable ensemble of oddballs who join him in drinking coffee, passing him matchboxes with directions contained inside and delivering existenstial monologues and advice.
This offering from Jarmusch could been seen as a self-indulgent experiment and it will most definitely not appeal to everyone. The length approaches 2hrs and the pace is very meditative indeed. It's quite possibly one of the slowest films I've ever seen. Yet, despite this, I found it also retained a sense of purpose. It always looked like it had a reason and a direction, although it was never exactly clear what they were. The first 20 mins alone consist of De Bankole just walking around. Then, doing a spot of Tai Chi. Drinking an Espresso. More Tai Chi. The occasional meeting with eccentric strangers and their philosophical meanderings. More Espresso and then at least half an hour passes before he realises he's forgotten to do his Tai Chi, before promptly doing so again. Believe me, that's all that happens throughout but I still found it captivating and real. The locations are wonderful and perfectly captured by the excellent cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who crafts a dreamlike painting of a film. If you can imagine a mixture of the George Clooney film "The American" with Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" then this would be the result. Having just recently viewed the documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop", which explores the difference between art and pretentiousness, this would make a nice companion piece to discuss along with it.
Arrogant filmaking from the experimental Jim Jarmusch that's not for all tastes but it's highly meditative and epitomises it's title in 'the limit of control'. I loved it.
February 9, 2011

Super Reviewer

People have accused Jarmusch of not putting enough effort into this one but I think they're missing the point, Jarmusch makes cool films effortlessly! The Limits of Control is a love letter to old classics, its a neo-noir if you will (ugh, I can't believe I just wrote Neo-noir). Typically of Jarmusch's films, it's brilliantly cast with some special performances, the writing is subtle but is like having your face smashed in with a poignancy hammer and the locations should have had billings of their own but above all, this is a visually rich and beautiful film. A future classic, albeit a cult classic but mark my works, this will one day be a very influential film!
January 12, 2011

Super Reviewer

If there was ever a movie you could us the phrase "you'll either love it or hate it" to describe, The Limits of Control is that movie. I really wish I didn't read Dr. Benway's review (link below) because he nailed it beautifully and there's really not much more to say. Like its soundtrack (courtesy of Boris, Sunn O))) and Earth), the movie doesn't take the obvious straight line route to get its point across and drowns you in beautiful space, imagery and cryptic half-moments. If it wasn't for the utter lack of madness, you'd think this movie was directed by David Lynch. Like Dr. Benway, I was overcome by fascination which eventually gave way to boredom (I fell asleep, but in my defense it was like 2AM when I watched this) then appreciation.

Dr. Benway's review.
November 30, 2010

Super Reviewer

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