2009 // USA // Jim Jarmusch // December 26, 2009 // DVD - Universal (2009)
B+ - Whether a given viewer will find Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control to be a gorgeous slice of generic deconstruction and existential provocation, or just a frustrating string of opaque, inert set pieces will be a matter of taste. Count me among those who, while conscious of the film's pretensions, found Jarmusch's latest work invigorating. The film follows a sleepless Lone Man (Isaach De Bankolé, resplendent in sharkskin suits) as he travels across Spain on a sinister errand, meeting a progression of oddballs with whom he exchanges matchboxes and cryptic messages. Backstory and motives are never elaborated upon, because of course the film's thriller elements aren't the point. (To wit, Jarmusch stages a James Bond infiltration sequence entirely off-screen.) The director is working in Lynch-country here, sans that director's smudging of dream and reality. The Limits of Control is foremost about the evocation of mood: through conversations laden with significance; repeated dialog, objects, and motifs; Christopher Doyle's sun-kissed cinematography; and the soundtrack by experimental metal group Boris. While the absence of emotional footholds necessarily limits the film's potency, Jarmusch nonetheless delivers a daring and inexplicably compelling work about, well, control, and its increasingly illusory nature in the modern world.