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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 25 August 2004
This got very mixed reviews from mainstream film critics, but anything by John Sayles is probably worth a look I thought, so despite the initial plot premise not really sounding quite my bag, I started watching. And 'Matewan' didn't look my kinda thing on paper either..
Suffice to say this is one of those films where the combination of script , actors, and cinematography is of such a high calibre that suspension of disbelief is absolute - you just get completely caught up in the unfolding drama. It is also, cleverly, one of those films that wrong foot you completely, in that you just cannot assume you know what kind of film it is going to be as it unfolds - romance? modern tragedy? psychological thriller/puzzle? Other films have tried to pull this off , often very much more crudely, but with this one you utterly believe in the characters, and just have to keep watching to find out what happens. Be warned though, the ending could drive you wild with frustration.....
All in all a film for anyone who wants more than mental popcorn from their movies, with a great soundtrack (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio sings! .. amazingly well, so much so in fact that I assumed it must be someone else until the end credits), including songs by Bruce Springsteen,Richard Thomson and Tom Waits, glorious craggy scenery in the form of John Strathairn and Kris Kristofferson's cheekbones, and Alaska, of course.
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on 27 June 2009
The reviewer who said this film did not have an ending rather missed the point: check the title, the ending is perfect. John Sayles is a director unlike any other in the way he creates complex cross currents of character & motive which work on more than one level and leave a resonance which encourages you to return to the films over & again. I first saw this in a nearly empty cinema - a very strange sensation, I was totally alone at the beginning of the film & almost left for that reason, but am glad that I stayed for yet another uncategorisable & beautiful film. All manner of little details come back to mind, most memorably the early settler's diary they discover which the young girl reads excerpts from each day, a scheherazade touch with yet another little twist of its own. Lone Star is probably still my favourite of all John Sayles' films due to the skill with which he handles so many themes & interlinking stories & of course the acting, but Limbo has grown in my estimation to be a close contender. That said so has Sunshine State. With John Sayles you really can't go wrong, I am not aware of any film of his which deserves fewer than 4 stars.
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on 18 February 2008
Strathairn, Mastrantonio and Sales are an explosive combination and it takes a while to realize you're part of the fallout. I got caught up quite accidentally while channel shifting one foggy night in Northern Ireland. The story is simple, real and twisting...like life. The outcome uncertain...like life. The acting is understated, drama at it's best, and the directing is pure Sales. If you are a fan of cast, director, Alaska or your own process, you will be caught too. So, how does it end? You tell me. I particularly enjoyed the singing voice of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
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John Sayles might be a true blue all American boy, but he directs films that are light years away from the usual Hollywood fare. Like nearly all his films, this one is not easy to get to grips with. It can confuse and frustrate you, but if you persevere you can be rewarded. Sayles manages to have a bit of fun with the medium, and concentrates on building the framework of his film around a bedrock of intelligent narrative. Nothing mind blowing, but it often picks up the detritus of life that we all struggle with. He is a born storyteller, who loves to engage with the viewer. There are so many times when you think, "hello, where are we going now?". The ending typifies this Sayles sense of fun.

Sayles does for Alaska, what he did so magnificently for a Mexican border town in "Lone Star". A number of the locals are put under the microscope, and their petty quarrels, relationships and angsts are painfully examined. Some may find this a bit tedious, but stick with it! The film later, rather unexpectedly morphs into an adventure story, when the lead actor, his romantic flame, and her daughter are stranded on an inhospitable island. Even here their relationships take precedent over a Robinson Crusoe type struggle to survive. Sayles, the consumate storyteller, continues to tease his audience to the very end.

The film is very well acted indeed, with David Strathairn able to demonstrate what a great actor he is away from his usual supporting roles. He is utterly convincing as a man with an albatross on his back, in one of the better performances I have watched in a long time. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio offers excellent support, and is able to showcase her singing talent. Sayles again uses Kris Kristofferson, a favourite actor of his in a limited support role. A pity that Kristofferson was unable to get on the films impressive music credits. The film is worth watching for this alone, and any film that has that great song "Lift me Up", from "The Boss" Bruce Springsteen gets my vote. The film is not very well known, but it is already showing signs of aging well. Perhaps not the very best of Sayles, but not bad at all!
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on 26 May 2009
A strange little film about the frontier that has always fascinated Americans: the sea, nature, the winter, and many other things that come along when you are isolated and lost in the big vast chasm this natural wilderness may look like along the coast of the state of Washington. To give come depth to the story, the film builds on the characters. A mother, singer by profession, drifter by family life, and her daughter, lost and unstructured by that life of no stability since any man has to be abandoned as fast as possible. Then the film throws in her/their legs a divorced middle aged man who was a fisherman but isn't anymore, who would like to have a peaceful life but cannot avoid being dragged into some shadowy and shady business by a half brother of his. Then the rest is details. The scenery is beautiful though not overused. The weather is chilly and we can feel it perfectly well. The anxiety, the fear, the panic now and then are perfectly present and lively. The daughter what's more is fantasizing some kind of diary left behind by some previous runaway abandoned escapee of some sort. The film though tries to stick to the rhythm of that life when it is stranded like this in no place nowhere and it is rather slow, maybe too slow. But apart from that it is a film you have to let yourself slip into without any resistance, including to the accent of this northern region of the US, somewhere between Seattle and Vancouver.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, CEGID
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on 19 January 2016
I love this film. David Strathairn and John Sayles have worked effectively together on a number of projects like Brother from Another Planet, Matewan, Passion Fish etc. but to my mind this is their best collaboration. The wonderfully talented Strathairn gets a rare leading man role as the damaged Alaskan ex-fisherman who falls for lounge singer Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (also excellent) and his performance is so subtle and natural and moving that you can't take your eyes off him. For the first half of the film you're willing their characters, Joe and Donna, to come together and find comfort in one another, their tentative romance set against the ravishing Alaskan scenery and colourful lives of a host of background characters. But then Sayles makes an abrupt switch and the romance becomes a survival story and the scenery becomes threatening and we're moving towards a controversial and much discussed ending that I personally found both challenging and thrilling.
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on 11 October 2014
I have not seen it yet, but expect it to be good
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on 16 January 2011
I cant believe i watched this garbage right to the end, kept waiting for something to happen, and it did the ending, should have known when that cold fish bird was in it, she drove me mad with her rubbish singing, total waste money buying it, god help the people who went to the cinema to see it,all best.
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on 22 March 2001
OK, this film at the start is a bit SLOW, after a good 20-30 minutes you finaly get a story. If it wasn't for the ending ,Limbo would have realy been good, BUT there is NO ENDING to the film at all??!!, which is realy bugging. The acting is good, the scenary is beutiful (it's based in Alaska!) The special fetures are NOT so good,the only thing worth looking at is the Directors Comments on the film. And thats all i have to say about Limbo.
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