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3.6 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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(Nov 16, 1999)
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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

Special Features

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

Product Details

  • Actors: Kris Kristofferson, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Strathairn, Vanessa Martinez, Kathryn Grody
  • Directors: John Sayles
  • Producers: Maggie Renzi
  • 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: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767838440
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,824 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Limbo" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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