In the Australian Outback, Travis Hurley (Simon Baker) drives into a small town while listening to religious preaching. Stopping at a hotel overnight, Travis takes drugs that help him remain restful and calm. Travis also questions the local police, revealing that he is seeking someone. When Travis finds the first man he’s been seeking, Charlie, we discover Travis is a detective tasked with reviewing an old case relating to a girl named Charlotte Hayes. Travis hopes that with a fresh set of eyes and the passage of twenty years, he might find new evidence to reopen the case. Travis is only in town for a few days, so he’ll attempt to conduct as much work as possible to provide the victims’ families with hope and support.
Limbo is best described as a crime story with an intense mystery. From Travis’s first discussions with someone in town, we understand his purpose and the puzzle he’s trying to assemble. Given the film’s synopsis, there’s also an added drama aspect. A twenty-year-old case is not the most pleasing to tackle. Many people that Travis interacts with have no interest in talking. Still, Travis continues visiting unknown territory and a world of challenges and issues.
Visually, Limbo is a treat thanks to Director Ivan Sen, best known for his other detective films, including Mystery Road and Goldstone. Unlike his past films, Sen has taken a different and fun path in the visuals. Limbo is entirely in black and white, complementing the neo-noir vibes and storyline. The black-and-white visuals work wonderfully, creating tension and drama. Ivan Sen has also been creative with his camera, particularly with his extreme long shots showing stunning scenery and impressive landscapes. Having seen the entire film, I couldn’t imagine it in full colour.
I found myself hooked on the story early in the film as we see Travis conduct his first in-depth discussion of the investigation. Audiences understand the situation better through his talks, especially the challenges of the case. Performance-wise, I found myself appreciating Simon Baker here, especially compared to some of his more recent work in cinema. This is something different for the actor, even down to his appearance and mannerisms. Simon Baker brings a solid yet likeable presence with a fun, mysterious nature. There are many mysteries about Travis, such as why he enjoys taking drugs before going to bed or listening to Christian audio sermons. He, too, may have a dark past.
Overall, I was excited to see Director Ivan Sen return with a mysterious film full of noir detective vibes. Once again, Sen delivers while introducing new aspects. Visually, this film is a treat, and the use of black and white visuals only added to the neo-noir elements, creating moments of tension and drama excellently. More impressive is actor Simon Baker who gives a performance here that feels strong and memorable, especially when compared to some of the actor’s recent work. Despite being carried by a small cast, the film feels more extensive than it is, and it’s a story that made me both curious and interested. In the end, Limbo is a drama that hits hard in all the right places. While the thriller aspect may sometimes feel somewhat familiar, it’s profoundly enlightening and touching.