David Strathaim and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio star in the mesmerizing yet little-known film called Limbo. Directed by John Sayles, Limbo is a deep drama looking at a number of characters in a small Alaskan fishing town, as well as a mild thriller.
NOTE: This review is spoiler intensive.
Strathaim stars as Joe, an ex-fisherman who hasn't been on the sea in over twenty years due to a traumatizing accident. He meets Donna, a decent though unappreciated singer who has been hopping around from boyfriend to boyfriend for so long that she has lost all touch with her teenage daughter Noelle. Donna and Joe start to hit things off, and Joe is hired to run a fishing boat for a few weeks. He sets out with Donna and Noelle on a weekend trip, but the journey turns into adventure when they are forced to jump ship after two killers take over their ship. Now, stranded on a freezing island with no civilization nearby, they are forced to rely on each other to survive, both physically and mentally.
Limbo is a very interesting movie indeed. For more than an hour, the movie drives through a variety of character interactions in the town, looking especially at Joe and Donna. The drama that unfolds is realistic and never weighted; Sayles does not try to do anything exceptional, but ensures that the audience remain involved. The dialogue and acting flow genuinely.
Then, the movie takes a very interesting turn as a murder takes place and the three characters are forced to survive in the cold for a long while. Some people have complained that this "twist" defeats the purpose of the movie, as it never really plays as a thriller and should never have even come close to one to begin with. I, on the other hand, found it fairly exciting that this intriguing drama had suddenly turned into an intriguing survival thriller.
However, as it turns out, Sayles never capitalizes on the fact that he has an effective thriller at his fingertips. In fact, he instead goes the anti-Hollywood way and uses the situation that the characters have suddenly found themselves in to develop them even more. In other words, there is a peak in action for a couple minutes and then Sayles goes right back to work at presenting an effective drama as if nothing had ever happened.
Limbo works great as a drama - in fact, it was ten times better than expected - but the only downside to it is that Sayles could have made a great thriller out of it as well. Limbo is one of those movies that the audience wishes would have been two separate movies, for they thoroughly enjoyed the drama and liked it as such, but at the same time knew that it could have been an awesome thriller as well.
Obviously, making Limbo into a thriller would have defeated Sayle's goals, but the potential was there to make an equally good movie that perhaps would appeal to audiences with shorter attention spans.
The only real complaint about the film is how Sayles decides to use the title of the movie. Yes, another spoiler is coming, but I just have to say it: Limbo ends by leaving the audience in limbo. There is no ending.
As great of a movie as Limbo is, a conclusion would have been really nice.
Limbo is a sensational drama that only suffers from the realization that it could have been equally as good as a thriller, had the director decided to go that route. The ending is slightly disappointing, but this movie is definitely worth a watch.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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