Is the beginning even the beginning? It’s a question I posed in my head about halfway through Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control, first literally and later philosophically. Structured as a series of discrete, uncannily repeated sit-down encounters between a mysterious loner (Isaach De Bankolé) on some sort of criminal assignment and a succession of enigmatic oddball contacts throughout sunny Spain, The Limits of Control at least seems to have a concrete starting point: De Bankolé’s airport rendezvous with a Creole and French man (Alex Descas and Jean-Francois Stévenin), who appear to be giving him his initial coordinates, albeit in subtitled French and then spoken English (just the first instance of repeated information in a film that continues to replicate itself throughout). But the more narratively obscured, morally ambiguous meetings he has, and the more they echo one another in increasingly apparent ways, the more I began to assume that not only might the film’s purpose and “logical” endpoint remain unrevealed but also that perhaps we began this story in medias res. That we never find out only adds to the teasing, circular existentialism of Jarmusch’s film, his best in over a decade. It’s a return to the subliminally jokey neonoir of some of his early films, but it’s also unmistakably the work of a seasoned master who understands the power of every shot, cut, and uttered word.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of The Limits of Control.