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Limbo (1999)

David Strathairn , Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio , John Sayles  |  R |  DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: David Strathairn, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Vanessa Martinez, Hermínio Ramos, Kris Kristofferson
  • Directors: John Sayles
  • Writers: John Sayles
  • Producers: Maggie Renzi, Sarah Connors
  • Format: AC-3, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 1999
  • Run Time: 126 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767838440
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,136 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Limbo" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Isolated Music Soundtrack (Dolby Digital 5.1) with Instant Access to Highlights
  • Trailer for John Sayles' film "The Secret of Roan Inish"

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In the untamed wilderness along Alaska's coast, feelings and fortunes change as quickly as the tides in this "haunting and hypnotic thriller" (Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE) from critically acclaimed director John Sayles. Traumatized by a boat accident at sea many years before, Joe Gastineau (David Strathairn) has given up his hopes for a life beyond the odd jobs he takes to support himself. That quickly changes when Donna deAngelo (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), bar singer and nomad, and her troubled teenage daughter, Noelle, enter Joe's life. Both mother and daughter fall for Joe, increasing the already-present friction between them. The tension continues to build when Joe captains his shipon a mysterious sea voyage up the Alaskan coast, only discovering, after it's too late, that the trip may end up costing them their lives.

There are three unforgettable characters in John Sayles's contemporary adventure-drama set in Alaska. They are never seen but live only in a frontier diary found by teenager Noelle De Angelo (Vanessa Martinez). The life of the diary's narrator is much like everything in this movie: hanging in limbo. The first half of the film focuses on why men and woman turn to Alaska, a land still ripe with opportunity. A small town is at a crossroads, with its pulp mill and canning factory closed and new investors seeing different directions in which to take the area (one even boasts the state is the ultimate theme park). A local (Sayles regular David Strathairn) is just escaping his past, taking up commercial fishing again. He attracts a traveling nightclub singer (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in her best role in years) who struggles daily with her daughter Noelle. Like any good theme park, Limbo presents the threesome with an unexpected adventure. In the wilderness, the three relative strangers learn more about themselves than was ever possible in town. Sayles's usual craftsmanship creates a singular blend of drama and suspense with an ending designed to ruffle feathers. Not as accessible as his breakthrough hit Lone Star, Limbo is nevertheless a hearty film from one of America's best storytellers. --Doug Thomas

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever heard of a satisfyingly ambiguous ending? January 24, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
I HATE untidy or ambiguous endings. Check that...I LOATHE untidy or ambiguous endings. Whenever I see an untidy/ambiguous ending, I think that either: 1) the writer/director didn't know how to end the movie, so figured he'd just stop filming somewhere along the way; or 2) that the writer/director is going for some deep meaningful ending that is supposed to make us think he/she is a "powerful" director willing to "take risks" to "make a statement".
Well, let's just say that I found the ending to Limbo to be one of the most satisfyingly ambiguous endings I've ever seen. The final shot says so much about where the characters have come from and how they've changed that it was really touching...despite not really learning what happens past the final shot.
This movie is like two movies in one, and the fact that it works is a huge credit to John Sayles. The first half of the movie involves the relationships between people who are basically down on their luck in Alaska. And if you think they are in limbo through the first half of the movie, wait until the sudden shift to the Alaskan wilderness for the second half of the movie.
Beautifully acted, written, directed and filmed. Great dialog and oustanding scenery. Definite 5 star movie all the way.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Limbo is an unexpected delight! May 24, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
"Limbo" is an excellent film. I have only seen one other film by Sayles, "Lone Star." I liked "Lone Star", but the ending of that film creeped me out. Otherwise I felt it was a good movie. So it was with some fear that I decided to see "Limbo."
I'm not sure what viewers who loved "Lone Star" would say about "Limbo." I really enjoyed "Limbo." The actors portrayed the characters well. David Strathairn plays the role of Joe Gastineau well. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is fantastic in the role of Donna De Angelo. The young woman who plays Noelle De Angelo, Vanessa Martinez, is incredible.
The movie is character-driven as opposed to plot/action-driven. Expect the style of filmmaking to be more Northern Exposure than ER. We really get to know the characters in this film either by default or through direct contact. The way in which the stories of the characters are woven together is intricate-evidenced by a scene in which several conversations at a bar are occurring at the same time.
The end of the movie, which I will not reveal, is somewhat unexpected and may make some viewers upset. Viewers should keep the title of the movie in mind while watching the film and the end will seem perfect.
One of my pet peeves in movie watching is seeing a film that has a terrible ending. Limbo has a perfect one. The last 30 or so minutes of the movie are the best in the film and need to be seen again. I give this movie two thumbs up and recommend it to those who enjoy seeing excellent acting!
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Journey Is The Story August 1, 2000
One might not like the ending, but damn... the trip was fascinating. Sayles has created a gem, shining thru the pale offerings that pass as adult drama in these days. Is it possible that a young actress reading from a diary can be so fascinating? Is it possible that an actress singing can make you run out and buy a soundtrack? Is it possible not to recognize Bruce? Is it possible that Sayles manages time and again to draw stellar performances from actors and actresses who seem to be under utilized in an industry focused on the next pretty face? Yes to all. Do yourself a favor, spend some time in Limbo.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did you see the significance? July 4, 2001
By A Customer
I wasn't too impressed the first time this film was "force fed" to me. I'm only human, what can I say. But now this is one of my all time favorite motion pictures. First of all, it satisfied a scant curiosity for me. Namely, what's Alaska like? That question was answered immediately by watching "Limbo." Alaska is one of the most mysterious and culturally rich states in the union. "Limbo" is an extremely rewarding excursion in character development: good acting and believable situations. It brings us a grand assortment of humanity: A duped lesbian couple, their curmudgeon of a landlord; wise native-Americans; an emotionally-starved folk singer (flawlessly acted by Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio); a crooked bush pilot (wonderfully played by Kris Kristopherson; a saddened fisherman (David Strathairn's lowkey yet powerful performance) and a beautiful, frightened teenage girl (Vanessa Martinez's awe-inspiring debut). I'm only scratching the surface: the texture of this movie's !characters is rich and immeasurable. Like a salmon (Alaskan analogy) you get hooked and trawled in to this incredibly beautiful film.

The plot is simplistic yet intriguing: the singer becomes quickly attracted to the fisherman. Her daughter, a complex and lonely girl finds relief through self-mutilation and story-writing. This performance (perfectly executed by Vanessa Martinez) is the highlight of the film. Her deeply-imbedded sorrow will simply break your heart. I've never seen such an incredible performance by any actress in all my years of movie-watching. Her portrayal of the rebellious daughter Noelle is so rich and convincing that I'll never forgive the academy of motion picture arts and sciences for not giving her an Oscar nomination--It's THAT GOOD.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Limbo...
I've just now finished watching Limbo on HBO. It was actually a good story - with an ambiguous ending. You as the viewer are left to decide the fate of three souls. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. S. HARDEN
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Its ok.
Published 2 months ago by Robert
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfull film about lifes struggles and troubles ! Buy it if you...
Gripping story of love life and death ,Really hits home. Saw it years ago on HBO or something and had to own the dvd.One of those movies you dont get tired of watching over! Read more
Published 10 months ago by jasper
2.0 out of 5 stars Potential Not Achieved.
The film was interesting and different at first, but as it got into their life on the island, it became corny and maudlin. Casting was good except for the teenage daughter. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Nancy Powers
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a frustratingly great move.
We have watched this move many times. I'm not sure why exactly. 😜If you haven't seen it yet you'll soon see why. Anyway, it's a good one to add to your video library.
Published 15 months ago by Happy Camper
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Art Film
This is a fantastic art film that causes the viewer to think and ponder as the relationships between the three main characters unfold and reveal what lays beneath the surface. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Margaret E. Bailey
1.0 out of 5 stars Limbo
Limbo, one of those "creative" movies without an ending, you hang in there for a two hour movie, too be totally let down at the "finish", I use the word finish, due to there is not... Read more
Published on February 28, 2012 by Randall Miller
1.0 out of 5 stars What? No zero star option?
Can you say D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A G, D R A... Read more
Published on January 31, 2012 by Gitasgod
1.0 out of 5 stars Ending SUCKS!!!
Tell me I didn't watch for two hours just to have the screen go black and never find out what happened.

What a waste of time!! Read more
Published on January 30, 2012 by Gentlewoman
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, original, beautiful!
Having never heard of this movie when it was released, apparently in 1999, it was a delightful surprise to see it on DVD now in 2010. Read more
Published on July 1, 2010 by Anonymous
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