Limbo (2005) Movie Review
Considering Akimi's lack of experience, it's an admirably ambitious undertaking that yields mixed results. Made for roughly $9,000 on black-and-white digital video, Limbo has many of the hiccups seen in low-budget projects and a wealth of promise displayed in Ikimi's narrative skills.
The man stuck in the middle is Adam Moses (Christopher Russo), a lawyer with a vaguely checkered past who refuses to give damaging evidence to a powerful criminal (George Morafetis). Soon, Moses finds himself on a city rooftop, where an apparent shooting leaves him unhurt -- but trapped within a never-ending series of "cycles," where a period of time may repeat any number of instances.
Ikimi establishes his story well, placing Moses in the middle of his hell as he saves an addicted gambler from suicide during one his "cycles." As the savior and the saved talk later, Moses tells his tale of woe in flashback, taking us right through the confusion with his new companion. Russo, as Moses, performs a pulpy, melodramatic voiceover throughout that works with the film's black-and-white dreariness and occasionally helps to suspend disbelief.
As a director, Ikimi employs a healthy variety of angles and approaches, sending Moses up and down stairways (an effective story device, actually), searching through apartments and roaming city streets. He even uses a simple but enticing dissolve effect to move time. The whole effort captures a spooky, seedy world rather well, probably the film's strongest attribute.
From an acting standpoint, Russo appears to get stronger as Limbo progresses, but many of the performances have an overly earnest film school flavor that can hedge toward hokey. It's the kind of weakness that comes with the territory in a film such as this. If an aspiring filmmaker could learn one lesson watching Limbo, it's that a competent lead actor can get you through some rough spots. (Or, those same aspiring filmmakers could examine the performances in Primer, a similar style of first-time film made completely with inexperienced actors.)
What keeps Limbo interesting when pacing or performances falter is the heady concept: if time never progresses "logically," then actions have no consequences. At what point does Moses' questionable past catch up with him, with his soul acting as his only moral compass? Committing crimes can be a simple philosophical endeavor when the clock just resets. To many, that may sound like a college-level conversation on existentialism, but it keeps Limbo going.