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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.


Jim Jarmusch


Jim Jarmusch
1 win. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Isaach De Bankolé ... The Lone Man
Alex Descas ... The Creole
Jean-François Stévenin Jean-François Stévenin ... The Frenchman
Óscar Jaenada ... The Waiter
Luis Tosar ... Man with Violin
Paz de la Huerta ... The Nude Woman
Tilda Swinton ... The Blonde
Yûki Kudô ... Molecules
John Hurt ... Man with Guitar
Gael García Bernal ... The Mexican
Hiam Abbass ... The Driver
Bill Murray ... The American
Héctor Colomé ... Second American
María Isasi ... Flamenco Club Waitress
Norma Yessenia Paladines 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:

View content advisory »



USA | Japan


English | Spanish | Arabic | French | Japanese

Release Date:

19 September 2009 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

No Limits No Control See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$55,820, 3 May 2009

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


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

"NO LIMITS NO CONTROL" at the end of the closing credits See more »


References Suspicion (1941) See more »


Por Compasión: Malagueñas
Performed by Manolo El Sevillano (as Manuel El Sevillano)
(c) Copyright 2003 by Fonotrón, S.L., Sevilla (España)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Pretentious nonsense
17 August 2011 | by KnightsofNi11See all my reviews

Why Jim Jarmush? Why? Why did you of all directors have to produce such a dud? Why couldn't you have passed on that burden to a director without your prowess or your imagination? I thought we had a good thing going here. You make awesome movies and I watch them. It's a virtually flawless system. But no. You had to go and make The Limits of Control, a painfully pointless and stagnant film with no plot, no purpose, and no emotion. It follows a lone man as he searches for... something. There's no telling what, as the film has no backstory. It really has no story for that matter. This nameless man travels Europe, meeting various people and having vague conversations about nothing with them, only to receive a matchbox with a piece of paper in it at the end of every conversation. The man then proceeds to eat the paper. Any synopsis I could write about this film will make no sense and, unfortunately, seeing the film won't clear anything up.

This is such an utterly pointless film. It is incredibly experimental to a Lynchian degree, but Lynch always wraps up his films with a point. His films have a sense of purpose and meaning, and they get somewhere. The Limits of Control does not. We begin and end the film equally confused as to what is going on at all. The film does have a intriguing auteur look to it, accompanied by a great soundtrack and overall eerie pacing. But these nice things can only care a plot less story so far. The visual quality of the film begins as something compelling to look at and to absorb, but slowly becomes a very boring excuse for art film style visuals.

I think what really irks me about this film is just how serious it takes itself, and how profound it thinks it is. The film is incredibly pretentious and every conversation and every long, drawn-out, pointless scene is more self-indulgent that the previous. The film wants you to believe that there is some greater meaning to what it is all saying, but it's all just the ramblings of a pretentious goof. This is a film that insults our intelligence, as it isn't difficult to see past the faux profundities to the self-important nonsense that this film really is.

And what's even worse is how much the film tries to lead you on. It is alright to begin a film with no real backstory, throwing us right in the middle of the action. The Ancient Greeks invented the idea in the first place calling it in medias res, so I have no opposition to that. What I'm not okay with is films that just go in circles, never resolving anything and never filling us in on necessary backstory, or helping us out with the story at all for that matter. This isn't a thinking film in which we have to decipher the clues we are given by the characters and the story. There are no clues and this is a completely braindead film that thinks it has a brain that is smarter than all of us. Well, it's wrong. It's not intelligent, just pretentious.

I think the one place I can find solace in my despair over how bad this film was is that it doesn't give the impression that Jim Jarmush has forgotten how to make movies. That is a thought I reserve for films that are just bad in every way. The Limits of Control is Jarmush trying something different and new, but just failing miserably. It's really no more than a failed experiment, and I hope Jarmush realizes this. I hope he doesn't feel like he succeeded in making The Limits of Control a progressive and compelling film that transcends all cinematic boundaries. I hope that he has enough sense to realize he dropped a stinking pretentious mess on us and that he will have to clean it up if he wants to gain back some respect.

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