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The Limits of Control (2009)

The story of a mysterious loner, a stranger in the process of completing a criminal job.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Jean-François Stévenin ...
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The Waiter
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Second American
María Isasi ...
Flamenco Club Waitress
Norma Yessenia Paladines ...
Flight Attendant
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Storyline

A solitary man who does not speak Spanish is an underground courier. Two men who are both thuggish and philosophical send him to Madrid with cryptic instructions. Over the course of a few days, he receives his instructions from a series of distinctive individuals who provide words of philosophy or of warning and also give him a matchbox with a tiny piece of paper, which he reads then eats, accompanied by espresso served in two cups. He is quiet, self-contained, focused on his work. He has rules. He encounters and at times transmits a violin, diamonds, a guitar, and a map. Is he a smuggler? Merely an independent conduit? Or, something else? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

For every way in, there is another way out.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for graphic nudity and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

19 September 2009 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

No Limits No Control  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$55,820, 3 May 2009, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$425,025, 28 June 2009
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Tilda Swinton talks about a swooping bird in a room full of sand, she is referring to a scene in Stalker (1979). See more »

Goofs

When the Lone Man travels from Madrid to Sevilla, he enters a S 100 AVE train set. But the interior shots are clearly done in a S 103 (Velaro E), a totally different - and much newer - type of train. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Creole: [character speaks in Spanish/French creole, English subtitles] You don't speak Spanish, right?
French: [character translates for Creole] You don't speak Spanish, right?
Creole: You are ready? Everything's cool?
French: You are ready? Everything's cool?
Lone Man: Yes!
Creole: Good.
French: Good.
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Crazy Credits

"Quantum Respect and broken flowers to BART WALKER" in closing credits See more »

Connections

References Mystery Train (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Farewell
Written & Performed by Boris
Courtesy of Boris & Southern Lord Recordings
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
A film of mystery and silence
7 June 2009 | by See all my reviews

It has been said that God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose perimeter is nowhere. In the beautiful and enigmatic The Limits of Control, director Jim Jarmusch puts it this way, "The universe has no center and no edges" and, "everything is subjective", or "reality is arbitrary". Based on a script of only twenty five pages, The Limits of Control is about an immaculately dressed but emotionally frozen hit man (Isaach de Bankolé) who goes from place to place awaiting further instructions. He has no overview of the entire game plan but waits for his next move whenever he meets the next contact.

Set in Madrid and Seville as well as some isolated villages in the South of Spain, the cinematography by Christopher Doyle, who has worked extensively with Wong Kar-wai, is filled with elegantly-composed images of dark streets, barren landscapes, city skylines, and world class paintings. Getting his instructions at the airport before leaving for Madrid from Creole, played by the French actor Alex Descas, de Bankolé is told simply to go to a café and look for the violin. Further instructions come from various people he meets along the way in the form of a greeting "you don't speak Spanish, right?" and the exchange of matchboxes, one of which contains a curious code which the hit man simply eats. De Bankolé hardly ever speaks other than to say "yes" or "no." We learn little about him other than he prefers two cups of espresso served in separate cups and that he practices Tai Chi. We also discover that he likes women because we can see that he is tempted by the naked beauty Paz de la Huerta who suddenly appears in his hotel room. Although he openly admires her backside, he tells her that he never engages in sex while he is working (though I've never seen anyone who is working do such little work). As de Bankolé goes from location to location, each scene becomes a variation of the one that came before. Included are some provocative sequences such as repeated visits to an art gallery in Madrid, and a scene inside a bar in which de Bankolé watches a rehearsal of an exquisite flamenco dance in which the singer delivers dialogue from the first scene of the film warning us like some spiritual guru about the limits of ego.

"Those who think they are important", he sings, "wind up in a cemetery – a handful of dust". Along the way, we are introduced to some of recognizable stars. Tilda Swinton in a platinum wig, white cowboy hat, and boots talks about film noir, saying how she admires characters that never speak. Luis Tosar talks about musical instruments. Youki Kudoh speaks about molecular reconfiguration and the things that are possible in science. John Hurt tells us about the origins of the word "bohemian". Gael Garcia Bernal talks about how consciousness can be altered by psychoactive drugs like Peyote. Finally, Bill Murray as the ugly American corporatist says that our minds have become polluted by all of the subjects that have been previously discussed.

Supported by a soundtrack of electronic music by the trio Boris, The Limits of Control is a film of mystery and silence and unexpected twists that is about the power of imagination and poetry to operate without arbitrarily imposed limits. Sensing that we are in a period of change, Jarmusch says, "I almost feel like we're really on the cusp of an apocalypse of thought because all of these old models that they tell us are reality are all crumbling." What the "apocalypse of thought" will look like is uncertain but the film has a hypnotic, dreamlike quality that challenges the distinction between what is real and what is a product of the mind. In the film's final sequence, de Bankolé surveys a compound guarded by masked security officers with guns. The next minute, we see him inside the compound confronting the object of his search. When asked how he got in, he simply replies, "I used my imagination." If you want to know how that occurs, I would echo the film's message and say – use your imagination. That's all that there is anyway.


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