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Review: 'The Limits of Control'

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch weaves the story of a mysterious loner on a criminal mission.

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The new movie by the celebrated independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is called "The Limits of Control," a title that perfectly sums up his aesthetic. Ever since his breakthrough in 1984 with "Stranger Than Paradise," he's been the American director most associated with a distinctly funky brand of anomie. His movies are all about the limits of control – what happens when you lose it, or, more precisely, realize you never had it.

This is not to say that all Jarmusch movies are created equal. Some, like "Dead Man," leave me cold. But others, like "Night on Earth," with its five disparate stories set in taxis, or "Mystery Train," about foreign wayfarers in a fleabag Memphis hotel, have a mournful lyricism that evoke the same stilled sadness as an Edward Hopper painting. His films are like mood pieces scored for lost souls. As free-floating as some of them appear to be, the best are nevertheless rigorously focused on character. That's why they are so moving. The pervasive sense of loss is, above all, a human tragedy.

In "The Limits of Control," his nameless protagonist – identified in the credits as "Lone Man" – is enacted by Isaach De Bankolé, the Ivory Coast native who has starred in three other Jarmusch films. It's easy to see why. De Bankolé automatically becomes the center of gravity for any image in which he appears; he's a marvelous sculptural presence.

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