The Limits of Control
I can’t say that absolutely nothing happens in this movie because at the 70 minute mark, Tilda Swinton is kidnapped. It has nothing to do with anything in the movie, but it is some action and it does take up about 10 seconds. Other than that, nothing happens.
Isaach De Bankole, the unnamed protagonist, is on a quest to do something. He rarely speaks. He meets people who give him match boxes with a slip of paper with the same numbers written on it. We see him walk around, sit, walk around, think, sit, walk around, sit, think, and walk around. We don’t know what he’s up to. When the movie is over we know, but we don’t know why. Take it from me, there’s no reason to sit through this monument to monotony to find out. What he does is without rhyme or reason. The entire movie is without rhyme or reason.
There is virtually no dialogue, and what there is, is repeated throughout as Isaach meets different people, all of whom ask him the same question. That comprises about 50% of the dialogue in the film. The rest is just head shots of Isaach and shots of him walking and sitting and thinking.
He finally gets to a well-secured house in the country. The house is crawling with armed guards. There’s nothing else there except cactus. Isaach stands on a hill about 100 yards away and looks at the house. He can clearly see the guards. There are at least 20 of them, walking around with guns. But they never see him.
But it gets even dumber. He somehow gets into a totally secure, locked room. Bill Murray enters the room. He sees Isaach. He verbally calls for security, not once but several times. Then he curses the “sound proof door” and verbally calls for security again. Hey, Bill, if the room is soundproof, nobody’s going to hear you! Idiotic isn’t a strong enough word for this scene, but I have to admit that it is consistent with the rest of the film.
Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed. But coming in for equal scorn are Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, and John Hurt, all of whom appear in cameos, but who have allowed their names to be used and listed as stars. I don’t care how much they need the money, or how close they feel to Jim Jarmusch (all have apparently worked for him before), they shouldn’t allow their names to be used to lure moviegoers to attend the movie based on their listing as “stars” of the movie. None could have been on the set more than one or two days, and they added nothing to the film. Under no circumstance could any of the three be considered a “star” of the film.
I saw this film at a regular showing with real people in the audience. There was a lot of grumbling when the movie was over. I went to complain to the Landmark about them showing such a torturous, boring, nonsensical movie. There was actually a line of people waiting to complain about what a terrible movie-going experience they had just been through.