top of page
  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Limbo (A Movie Review)

LIMBO (2024)

Starring Simon Baker, Rob Collins, Natasha Wanganeen, Nicholas Hope, Mark Coe, Tiana Hartig, Alexis Lennon, Joshua Warrior, Craig Rossiter, Shannon Wilson-McClinton, Nicholas Buckland, Ricardo Del Rio, Andrew Dingaman, Yarron Jowsey, Saliesha Dingaman, Reg Roordink and Tania Roesch.

Screenplay by Ivan Sen.

Directed by Ivan Sen.

Distributed by Music Box Films. 109 minutes. Not Rated.

Limbo is pretty much the perfect name for the (fictional) town at the heart of this offbeat police procedural which takes place in a small, dilapidated burg in the desert of the Australian outback. Limbo is offbeat for many reasons, not the least of which is that if you are looking for typical mystery beats – like for example finding and punishing the bad guy – you may be looking in the wrong place.

Limbo is much more of a character study of horribly damaged people trying to survive in a hellish area, an examination on how crime can affect the people who knew the victim even decades later, and also a scathing political allegory about the racial divide in that country. And while some questions of the central mystery are answered here, many others are left hanging.

Limbo tells the story of a white Australian policeman named Travis Hurley, who is sent to the title town to look into a 20-year-old cold case about the disappearance of a young Aboriginal girl. She was a native, and a troubled girl, and at the time the case was looked into in a very slipshod manner. Even the new cop acknowledges that had she been a white girl, the case would have been handled completely differently at the time.

Twenty years later, memories are very hazy, some of the witnesses and at least one of the main suspects are dead. Frankly, those people who are still around do not trust the police enough to speak out, particularly not to a white policeman.

Of course, there may be a reason not to trust this cop. Our first introduction to him has him driving into town, checking into the local motel (a spectacular place with rooms and hallways which are actually carved out of the rock in a local cave) and shooting up with heroin until he passes out.

Travis is played by the only actor that most people will be familiar with here. It is a continuation of the return to his native land for Simon Baker, best known as the lead in the long-running TV series The Mentalist and for roles in films like LA Confidential and The Devil Wears Prada. Baker is honestly just barely recognizable here – with multiple assorted tattoos, an emaciated build, a severe buzz cut, a scruffy beard and mustache. Literally, I spent the first five minutes of the film trying to figure out if that was really him on the screen.

Baker has spent the last few years (mostly since the pandemic, it seems) back in his native Australia, taking on harsh, realistic roles which bely his pretty-boy reputation in American television and film. Good for him for taking on this risky career reinvention. Limbo has some of his finest work.

Limbo takes place in a dust-strewn, depressing area of the Australian Outback. (The film was filmed in Coober Pedy, a tiny speck on the Australian map which was known for the mining of opals.) It is a world that is well known by the Indigenous filmmaker Ivan Sen, who gives the town of Limbo an oppressive sense of heat, dirtiness and desperation, which is only enhanced by the film’s crisp black and white cinematography. The film is an arid, oppressively sun-drenched film noir. (And yes, I get the fact that sunny and noir seem to be a contradiction in terms but watch Limbo and you’ll see.)

Travis may be a visitor to the town, but you realize quickly that he knows this kind of place well, and the town’s decrepit sense of sweltering rot mirrors the policeman’s psyche. Still, despite his depression and pessimism, Travis does believe in justice, and he does seem to truly want to help solve the case, no matter how futile his efforts may be.

He enters into a fragile relationship with the town and its citizens. He particularly connects with the victim’s brother Charlie (Rob Collins), with whom he even eventually reaches the tentative beginnings of a friendship, and his estranged other sister Emma (Natasha Wanganeen), who becomes almost a wife-figure to Travis, although in a platonic manner.

Even if Travis can’t give them an answer about their sister’s fate – and neither of them seem to expect an answer to be possible – perhaps Travis can mend the rift between the siblings and come to terms with some of his own demons.

There are no happy endings in Limbo, just a sense of incremental healing. Maybe that is all anyone can expect in that world.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: March 21, 2024.


bottom of page