The Limits of Control


The Limits of Control

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 126


Audience Score

User Ratings: 34,094
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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.

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Critic Reviews for The Limits of Control

All Critics (126) | Top Critics (40)

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

    Dec 11, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    David Jenkins

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Dec 11, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Dec 11, 2009 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Dec 11, 2009
  • The Limits of Control gives off the scent of a thriller but the general odour of an art movie purposefully going nowhere.

    Dec 11, 2009 | Rating: 2/5
  • The Limits of Control is hard work for the audience yet by degrees rewarding, captivating and fascinating.

    Jul 27, 2009 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Limits of Control

  • Jun 12, 2013
    The Limits of Control is a film burned down to its absolute core. A minimalist story with no given purpose. As the director Jarmusch put it himself this was an action movie with no action. This much will already set off most audiences. But I love the concept. None of the characters have a name, they aren't even addressed by anything. The protagonist says as little as possible, and does the same amount. I'd make the argument that this is extreme existentialism. The main character goes around primarily to 2 locations. A Coffee shop and art galleries. At night you can see him in his hotel room, but once he leaves for the day he has no purpose. This makes the movie slow in tempo. The climax comes in the last thirty minutes of the film, the rest is hardly rising action. What I did enjoy about this film is the intensities it emphasized on the arts. The paintings developed as the story developed, and films alongside music were constantly discussed. The films major deficit in my viewing was the language barriers during scenes of non-English dialogue. I understand the purpose was so that you understand only as much as the protagonist, but at the same time it got annoying due to the amount of Foreign tongues being spoken with no subtitles. The film had beautiful cinematography done by Christopher Doyle who is huge on the scene of modern Asian films. He has done camerawork for In The Mood of Love, Paranoid Park, and Three Extremes. This movie also has a star filled cast. The main actor Bankole works along side Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton. None of the acting was remotely difficult or needing of talent so they were just there for eye candy. Speaking of eye candy lets all give Jarmusch a round of applause for having Paz de la Huerta appear in this film fully nude on serval occasions. This alone makes Roger Eberts (RIP) rating to strict, and makes this artistic film worthy while.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 07, 2012
    A film to mull over for awhile. Jarmusch clearly is giving us something to think about but isn't quite clear what that is. There is part of me that thinks that this is perhaps just a mess to allow the film maker to make fun of us about but there is enough there to allow the viewer to be a laughing stock in uncovering what he was after.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2012
    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.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2011
    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.
    Mark W Super Reviewer

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