DirectorJim Jarmusch Music directorBoris Duration CountryUnited States
Arabic Release dateMay 1, 2009 (2009-05-01) CastIsaach De Bankolé (Lone Man), Tilda Swinton (Blonde), Bill Murray (American), Gael García Bernal (Mexican), John Hurt (Guitar), Youki Kudoh (Molecules) Similar moviesFish Tank, The Last Witch Hunter, Jupiter Ascending, Factory Girl, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, At the Edge of the Abyss
TaglineFor every way in, there is another way out.
A mysterious stranger (Isaach De Bankole) works outside the law and keeps his objectives hidden, trusting no one. While his demeanor is paradoxically focused and dreamlike all at once, he embarks on a journey that not only takes him across Spain, but also through his own consciousness.
The Limits of Control is a 2009 American film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, starring Isaach De Bankole as a lone wolf assassin, carrying out a job in Spain. Filming began in February 2008, and took place on location in Madrid, Seville and Almeria, Spain. The film was distributed by Focus Features. It received mixed reviews, and as of December 12, 2012, has a 43% rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, having been criticized for its slow pace and inaccessible dialogue while praising its beautiful cinematography and its ambitious scope.
A mysterious stranger works outside the law and keeps his objectives hidden, trusting no one. While his demeanor is paradoxically focused and dreamlike all at once, he embarks on a journey that not only takes him across Spain, but also through his own consciousness.
In an airport, Lone Man (Isaach de Bankole) is being instructed on his mission by Creole (Alex Descas). The mission itself is left unstated and the instructions are cryptic, including such phrases as "Everything is subjective," "The universe has no center and no edges; reality is arbitrary," and "Use your imagination and your skills." After the meeting in the airport he travels to Madrid and then on to Seville, meeting several people in cafes and on trains along the way.
Each meeting has the same pattern: he orders two espressos at a cafe and waits, his contact arrives and in Spanish asks, "You dont speak Spanish, right?" in different ways, to which he responds, "No." The contacts tell him about their individual interests such as molecules, art, or film, then the two of them exchange matchboxes. A code written on a small piece of paper is inside each matchbox, which Lone Man reads and then eats. These coded messages lead him to his next rendezvous.
He repeatedly encounters a woman (Paz de la Huerta) who is always either completely nude or wearing only a transparent raincoat. She invites him to have sex with her but he declines, stating that he never has sex while he is working. One phrase that Creole, the man in the airport tells him is repeated throughout the movie: "He who thinks he is bigger than the rest must go to the cemetery. There he will see what life really is: a handful of dirt." This phrase is sung in a flamenco song in a club in Seville at one point in his journey.
In Almeria, he is given a ride in a pickup truck - driven by a companion of the Mexican (Gael Garcia Bernal) - on which the words La vida no vale nada (life is worth nothing) are painted, a phrase Guitar (John Hurt) says to him in Seville, and he is taken to Tabernas desert. There lies a fortified and heavily guarded compound. After observing the compound from afar, he somehow penetrates its defenses and waits for his target inside the targets office. The target (Bill Murray) asks how he got in, and he answers, "I used my imagination." After the murder with a guitar string, he rides back to Madrid, where he locks away the suit he has worn throughout the movie and changes into a sweatsuit bearing the national flag of Cameroon. Before exiting the train station onto a crowded sidewalk he throws away his last matchbox.