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The Limits of Control (2009)

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



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


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


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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Release Date:

19 September 2009 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

No Limits No Control  »


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


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Óscar Jaenada crossed paths with Jim Jarmusch when the director was scouting Madrid for locations, and was such a fan of his work that couldn't help but to asked him for a role once he knew he was shooting a movie in Spain. See more »


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 »


[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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


References Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) See more »


Moon Dust
Written and Performed by William Doggett (as Bill Doggett)
Courtesy of Unlimited Media GmbH/Setco Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Limits of Suggestiveness
19 March 2013 | by See all my reviews

I was thinking that this was the abstract baby Lost in Translation and The American had, and just like that Bill Murray eventually makes an appearance. The way he looked at the skull on his desk really made me smile.

The reason I watched this movie was because of Boris & Sunn O)))'s contribution to the soundtrack, and that was the only reason. Well, I was in for it! Personally I don't think this drone / doom metal soundtrack fits this movie, or almost any movie, but surely I am biased. And perhaps I've just listened too much to the songs beforehand so that I find they are too cut down, repetitive and out of place here. Boris's music worked in Kokuhaku, though.

Also, did I get what The Limits of Control was about? Not overall, and I didn't like the unrealistic dialogues. It made the dominating silence in the movie seem more meaningless and less thought-provoking. Still, having random (famous) people ramble on about long-winded, ambiguous and quite irrelevant topics didn't lack charm (I'm not being completely sarcastic, especially in John Hurt's case). But hey, it is a very symbolic and long-dragged movie that shrouds its various points with mystery. It is a full-blown "show, don't tell" piece of film. Make what you will of it; I was entertained throughout but I did not arrive at any satisfactory conclusion.

However, the wavering of the camera in the last second of the movie had me wondering. Did I limit this movie?

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