Critics Consensus

Control is a work of art, thanks to its evocative black and white cinematography and sensational performances from Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Even those not familiar with Joy Division can still appreciate the beauty of the film.



Total Count: 112


Audience Score

User Ratings: 48,442
User image

Control Photos

Movie Info

Ian Curtis has aspirations beyond the trappings of small town life in 1970s England. Wanting to emulate his musical heroes, such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop, he joins a band, and his musical ambition begins to thrive. Soon though, the everyday fears and emotions, that fuel his music, slowly begin to eat away at him. Married young, with a daughter, he is distracted from his family commitments by a new love and the growing expectations of his band, Joy Division. The strain manifests itself in his health. With epilepsy adding to his guilt and depression, desperation takes hold. Surrendering to the weight on his shoulders, Ian's tortured soul consumes him.

Watch it now


Sam Riley
as Ian Curtis
Samantha Morton
as Deborah Curtis
Alexandra Maria Lara
as Annik Honoré
James Anthony Pearson
as Bernard Sumner
Harry Treadaway
as Steve Morris
Craig Parkinson
as Tony Wilson
Toby Kebbell
as Rob Gretton
Richard Bremmer
as Ian's Father
Tanya Myers
as Ian's Mother
Martha Myers-Lowe
as Ian's Sister
David Whittington
as Chemistry Teacher
Mary Jo Randle
as Debbie's Mother
Ben Naylor
as Martin Hannet
June Alliss
as Corrine's Mother
Mark Jardine
as Other Band Manager
Paul Arlington
as Hospital Doctor
Tim Plester
as Earnest
Joanna Swain
as Maternity Nurse
Joseph M. Marshall
as Alan From Crispy Ambulance
Elliot Brown-Walters
as Footballing Kid
Monica Axelsson
as Tony Wilson's Girlfriend
Lotti Closs
as Gillian Gilbert
Eady Williams
as Baby Natalie
View All

News & Interviews for Control

Critic Reviews for Control

All Critics (112) | Top Critics (40)

  • The film leaves you with the impression of an almost painfully innocent young singer, for whom alienation was, alas, far more than a pose.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello
    Top Critic
  • Ian's trapped between insurrection and guilt, and so is Corbijn's film which mires itself in the artist's bourgeoisie dramas without figuring out how they influenced his music.

    Feb 22, 2008 | Rating: B- | Full Review…
  • [An] absorbing and ultimately harrowing look at Ian Curtis' short, unhappy life.

    Dec 7, 2007 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Sam Riley is fascinating as Curtis, a hypersensitive young man hobbled by his incurable disease, and Samantha Morton is poignant as his put-upon wife.

    Dec 3, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The film nails both the malaise and creative vigor of Curtis' short, bruised and chillingly relatable life.

    Nov 3, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Sam Riley, a newcomer to the big screen who portrays Curtis with eerie accuracy, has the stringy, underfed looks of a schoolboy in the midst of a sudden growth spurt.

    Nov 3, 2007 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Control

  • Jul 19, 2013
    "Sid and Nancy II: The Ballad of Some Other Underwhelming Late-'70s Punk Band With a Tragic Story That People Forgot About". Well, I reckon I figured out a way to make this film's title less bland and formulaic, though maybe this film should just stick with the title the filmmakers settled on, because Joy Division was only original in their being a post-punked-up version of The Doors, only, you know, a little duller ("Oh, yeah, Jim Morrison made Mick Jagger look tedious, he was such an exciting frontman"). Well, at least Joy Division wasn't quite as obnoxious as Sex Pistols, and yet, plenty of people have kind of forgotten Joy Division... probably because the band, while alright, still wasn't too much better than Sex Pistols. Yeah, I'm not entirely sure on what Ian Curtis had control of, because it wasn't like he had all that tight of a grip on an attractive vocal style... or his marriage... or neurological stability. Jeez, Curtis just couldn't catch a break, so I reckon it's fitting that this film didn't catch too much of a break, so much so that it wasn't even as big of a success as a certain other experimental biopic of a popular musician in 2007, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, well, that's exactly my point. Well, "I'm Not There" wasn't too much more commercially successful that this film, but I still give it plenty of credit for being downright awesome, as opposed to this biopic. That being said, this film is a decent one, even though it can't quite gain enough "control" on storytelling to do away with some flaws. Pacing is nothing if not problematic in this film, with limp areas in momentum being the most recurring issue, but not without some company from hurried occasions, which can at least be found within expository areas of storytelling that are generally well-fleshed out, but have their share of glaring underdeveloped moments that could have easily been made up for if this film didn't pay so much attention to bloating storytelling with excess material that gets to be repetitious. Perhaps repetition could have been obscured by dynamics within the kick of director Anton Corbijn's atmospheric storytelling, but I suppose we'll never know, because while Corbijn's storytelling has plenty of effective areas, limpness in plot structuring goes much too emphasized by atmospheric limpness that looms over the film all but throughout it, watering down kick so much that when you're not blandly disengaged, you're bored. The film gets to be a bit dull, as well as repetitious at times, yet dragging is also emphasized by a certain other aspect, and that is unevenness, for although I give this film a lot of credit for having the guts to tackle most every key aspects within the brief life of Ian Curtis, and often doing this subject matter justice through effective areas in resonance, storytelling has a tendency to, for too long of a time, intensely meditate upon one layer of this intricate character study, - whether it be Curtis' career, or relationships, or internal conflicts - rather than organically bond the layers, thus making the eventual shifts in layers to prove jarring and ultimately detrimental to your investment within any aspect of this story. Focus isn't exactly all over the place, but it is incoherent, and before you know it, storytelling begins to lose a sense of progression and devolves into aimlessness, even though it's not too hard to figure out what stands at the end of this meandered path, thanks to the familiarity of the path that even those who are unaware of the story of Ian Curtis will find. The film isn't quite as formulaic as I feared, but Curtis' story is one that has been experienced time and again by many other musicians, and this film interpretation of such a story fails to do as much as it probably should to grace this narrative with something refreshing, shamelessly succumbing to conventions and tropes that can't even be fully compensated for by the aforementioned and relatively distinct storytelling flaws. Some of your more unconventional areas to storytelling are the flaws, and even then, we've seen uneven pacing and focus in all kinds of films of this type, thus they go emphasized by the conventionalism, leaving the final product to ultimately find itself with too little steam of sustain genuine reward value. Still, there is admittedly enough steam to the final product for it to secure genuine decency, and do so pretty handsomely. I'm not saying that the film is "Schindler's List" good-looking, but intentional black-and-white cinematography in this day and age has to be really hard to do very well, and that makes Martin Ruhe's efforts all the more commendable, because even though the lack of visual color does what degree of liveliness there is within this film's all too often dried up atmosphere no favors, stunningly clever plays with lighting and framing emphasize the sparseness of this film's color palette in way that captures this drama's brooding, yet tasteful tone, sometimes with haunting beauty. For an experiment with colorfully limited visual style, this film looks really good, and places its good looks into the context of its atmosphere with a thoughtfulness that gives you a feel for the isolation faced by the center of this intimate character drama's focus, even if it also adds a bit to the atmospheric sobriety that blands things up by giving you a chance to meditate upon the many shortcomings in storytelling. Of course, I must admit, the steadiness of this slow drama also gives you a chance to meditate upon what is done right in Matt Greenhalgh's and Ian Curtis widow Deborah Curtis' script, which does, in fact, have its share of strengths to offer alongside weaknesses, such as some sharp, if a bit inorganically incorporated comic relief, and genuinely effective areas in expository depth that draw a layered story. Sure, there is quite a bit of underdevelopment to plenty of areas, and the layers of this narrative are all too often unevenly handled, but this script's courage to extensively tackle as many areas of the tragic story of a flawed artist as it can within two hours is commendable enough to be endearing, and when the highlights of Greenhalgh's and Curtis' screenplay go well-executed by Anton Corbijn, the result is pretty effective. Corbijn approaches the telling of this story very steadily and meditatively, and in plenty of ways, underwhelmingness wouldn't be as firmly secured as it ultimately is without the dulling atmospheric dryness, yet when Corbijn's efforts work, you're left to not only meditate upon the pacing problems on paper, but upon the depths of this narrative that give you a sense of progression while you observe the evolution in a man as he comes of age from an ambitious and quiet teenager into a well-recognized and rather well-intentioned man whose flaws will mean his destruction. As much as I praise this film's highlights, they're few and far between, and such infrequency in quality renders the final product unable to escape underwhelmingness, but not get so lost in its shortcomings that you can't see the glimpses into what could have been, which gradually grow in quantity, largely because, as things unravel, material builds for our talented cast, or at least for our lead, because even though most every performer in the supporting cast has his or her moment to shine, at the end of the day, all the supporting characters are are mere bits and pieces surround the story of Ian Curtis, whose portrayal can make or break the final product, which is why then-newcomer Sam Riley gives it all he can in a sometimes underwritten, but generally revelatory performance that keeps consistent in charisma, and proves to be remarkably convincing in its selling the layers to Curtis, whether when he's a punky lad or a seriously flawed man, whose gradual decline is sold with so much dramatic commitment by Riley that, at times, you have to see what this kid who came out of the blue to be in this film does in order to believe it. Uneven writing holds back Riley's impact, but Riley still transforms into Curtis and proves to be instrumental in selling the effective areas in this extensive character drama, and while that's not enough to carry the final product out of underwhelmingness, the Riley's performance is just one of a fair deal of highlight that keep you going, even if you do still walk away wishing for more. When the "new dawn fades"... or whatever, underdevelopment proves to be a considerable issue whose severity goes topped only by repetitious dragging in plot structuring that is made all the more glaring by atmospheric dull spells, and leaves certain aspects to this layered character study to go too intensely focused upon for focal unevenness to be avoided, sending the final producer meandering down a familiar path until finally tripping into underwhelmingness, challenged enough by gorgeous cinematography, well-rounded highlights in writing, compelling highlights in direction and a relatively upstanding, if a bit underwritten lead performance by Sam Riley for Anton Corbijn's "Control" to stand as a decent study on the short life of Ian Curtis, with almost as many highlights as shortcomings. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 10, 2013
    The profile of Ian Curtis of Joy Division is gripping. You will recall that I'm not a huge fan of rock biopics but Anton Corbijn does an excellent job of profiling the genius and madness of Curtis.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2013
    Control tells the story of Ian Curtis' rise to fame from humble beginnings in Macclesfield through to his tragically young demise. The movie is slow throughout, but never boring. Sam Riley was excellent as Curtis. I found it a fascinating portrayal. Before watching the film I wasn't aware of the whole story, but was a fan of Joy Division. You could easily be fooled into thinking that some of the scenes were actually the real thing. Riley has an uncanny to Curtis and his voice, looks and movements are all utterly believable. Considering the uncomfortable, jagged and stretched motions and expressions this is quite a feat. One thing that impressed me about Control is that it is such an honest portrayal. Nothing is added to be clever or spice the situation up. Nothing is taken away to avoid looking pathetic or limited. We see Curtis' talented, genius, pathetic and self destructive, fragmented character in all its glory. It shows his needs for things he doesn't want, and wanting things he doesn't need - medication, love, having a baby, etc. Although his biography, that the movie has connections with, is called Touching From A Distance, Anton Corbijn has chosen to go with Control for his version of the tale. I feel it's a great title for this story. No control of his epileptic condition. No control of his feelings. Nor his fame. Nor what was expected of him. Nor what performing on stage took out of him. His life is as out of control as his dancing and music. In what he could control, he was super talented, which in itself is an achievement not to be overlooked considering his origins. I found the film genuinely affecting. Maybe because it is quite close to home and personal to me. I have listened to the songs featured in the film many times, albeit in my car now, or on my "boom-box" as a teen. I felt a connection with the character as I too am epileptic, suffer from depression and many flaws in his character I see in my own. This made certain scenes difficult yet valuable to watch for me. I would of hated this film to be made as a Hollywood money-making project. The whole identity, texture and appeal would be lost. If you know anything of the story, you would be expecting a movingly tragic end to the movie. I feel that even though you expect and anticipate this, it delivers the impact required. This is difficult to achieve when the audience know what's ahead. Control is a movie of high quality courtesy of Corbijn. I take my hat off to him having only directed video documentaries previously. The soundtrack is just tremendous and I feel the need to go out and purchase it. The feel, tone, structure and script are all spot on for the story, era, location and topic(s). The individual elements come together in an impressive package that I would recommend. If any topics covered in the film are of interest, this is a must see movie.
    James C Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2011
    The best biopic of the last twenty years. Easily the best musical biopic of all time.
    Alex H Super Reviewer

Control Quotes

News & Features