f there's any point at all to Jim Jarmusch's new film, The Limits of Control, it eluded me, so I think it would be best if I describe what happens and let you be the judge. Jarmusch regular Isaach De Bankolé stars as a man with no name, although he's not unique in this: none of the other characters has anything as conventional as a name. Dressed in a sharp blue suit, rarely saying anything, and never letting any emotion stray across his Easter Island features, De Bankolé travels from town to historic town in Spain on an unspecified criminal mission. In each town, he sits at a sun-baked plaza café table, places his irritating order – two single espressos in separate cups – and waits for a contact to join him. When he or she turns up, the contact embarks on an arbitrary monologue. Tilda Swinton, in a long, white wig, babbles about Orson Welles; Gael Garcia Bernal muses on the imagination; John Hurt splutters about "an oddly beautiful Finnish film" he's seen. Once that's out of the way, the contact gives De Bankolé directions towards his next contact on the trail, directions which tend to go like this: "Wait three days until you see the bread. The guitar will find you. Among us there are those who are not among us." Then the rigmarole is repeated, for two hours.
Based on that summary, and de-pending on how much of a Jarmusch fan you are, you may already know whether The Limits of Control is for you. Some will rejoice in Christopher Doyle's searing cinematography and smile at Jarmusch's oblique allusions. As for me, I thought it was a stultifying, condescending, self-satisfied exercise in seeing what a pulpy thriller would be like if you removed everything that made it thrilling, and replaced it with ... well, nothing. I assume that someone offered Jarmusch a bundle of euros if he made a film in Spain, so he rang a few of his friends, booked them all on the next flight to Seville, and set to work without stopping to consider whether he had any worthwhile ideas. There are 26 seconds of tension near the end, when De Bankolé meets Bill Murray. Before that, 50 minutes in, the glacial hero changed from a blue suit to a brown suit, and I almost fell off my chair. The film should have been called "The Limits of My Patience".
The Limits of Control, Jim Jarmusch, 116 mins, 15