Follow TV Tropes


Film / Control

Go To

Control is a 2007 biopic about Joy Division and its vocalist Ian Curtis, directed by former band photographer Anton Corbijn and starring Sam Riley as Curtis. Its screenplay, written by Matt Greenhalgh, was adapted from Touching from a Distance, a biography written by Curtis' widow, Deborah (played in the film by Samantha Morton); she served as a co-producer on the film alongside Corbijn and former Factory Records head Tony Wilson (who died two months before the film's release, making it the last major project he worked on in his lifetime), among others.

In Manchester during the second half of the '70s, aspiring poet and young newlywed Ian Curtis forms a punk band with a few friends after attending a Sex Pistols concert. First calling themselves Warsaw, then Joy Division, they manage to weave their way into a record deal on nascent indie label Factory Records, whose eccentric producer Martin Hannett helps bring the band to popularity. However, while things appear to be looking up for the band, Ian's life is rapidly spiraling downhill; he develops epilepsy, which makes performing increasingly difficult, his marriage grows strained, and his battle with depression becomes more and more overwhelming. By the end of it all, he and everyone around him will see their lives radically upended.

Corbijn already had a 24-year stint directing music videos before directing Control, including one for the 1988 reissue of Joy Division's "Atmosphere", but this marks his first feature-length work that isn't a documentary (his only other feature film before this was a Concert Film for Depeche Mode). Similarly, this is possibly the only straight-up biopic about Curtis's life that isn't a documentary.

No relation to the Janet Jackson album, the Remedy Entertainment game, or the Azumanga Daioh fanfiction. Compare 24-Hour Party People, a more flippant biopic that focuses more broadly on Joy Division's record label and the Manchester alternative scene as a whole.


  • Always Someone Better: It's implied that Debbie feels this way about Annik.
  • As Himself: Punk poet John Cooper Clarke portrays his younger self, performing his poem "Evidently Chickentown" as the opening act for a Joy Division concert.
  • Break-Up Song: "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is played after Curtis and his wife start to fall apart following his distance from her.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Ian is usually quiet, but when's he's angry or yelling, he's scary.
  • The Cameo: Natalie Curtis, Ian's daughter, appears in the audience of the Derby Hall gig.
  • Convulsive Seizures: Curtis was an epileptic, so this side of his life is also shown.
  • Country Matters: The band gets the attention of Factory Records head Tony Wilson with a note which simply states: "Joy Division, you cunt."
  • Cover Version: Sam Riley, Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, and Harry Treadaway (as Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris respectively) all do the songs in the scenes where Joy Division plays live or records. The songs are: "Leaders of Men", "She's Lost Control", "Transmission", "Insight", "Disorder", "Isolation", "Love Will Tear Us Apart", "Digital", "Dead Souls", and "Candidate".
    • The Killers cover "Shadowplay" during the credits.
    • Averted with "No Love Lost", and "Atmosphere", which were the original recordings by the real Joy Division.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Interestingly enough the soundtrack album has covers of the originals more than anything else.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Peter Hook and Rob Gretton. So very much.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film was originally shot in color, but converted to black and white in post to match the photos that director Anton Corbijn took of the actual members of Joy Division during the band's lifetime.
  • Despair Event Horizon: After Deborah doesn't return his feelings of staying with him, Ian sends her out which leads to a seizure. He recovers only to finally hit this point and commit suicide.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Everyone knows from the start that Ian Curtis eventually committed suicide.
  • Downer Ending: Ian commits suicide and Deborah is left distraught as she has to raise their infant daughter alone.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone knows the story will end with Ian committing suicide.
  • From Bad to Worse: The final Joy Division gig at Derby Hall, with Ian frequently ducking off stage in order to combat a worsening seizure, forcing Alan Hempstall of Crispy Ambulance to step in for him. The gig ends in a riot.
  • Happily Married: Ian and Debbie, at first.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • There's quite a few shots of Ian shirtless, mostly early in the film.
    • Peter Hook's shirts are sometimes slightly unbuttoned as well, fitting the real Hook's longtime desire to be a rock star.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-universe. Tony tries to comfort Ian with this after the riot under From Bad to Worse, by saying the band's publicity will help them when they tour the US.
  • Oop North: The film takes place there, to the point where a still from this film is the page image.
  • Parental Neglect: Ian doesn't really spend much time with his daughter, Natalie. Then again, his epilepsy and commitment to the band makes it difficult.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: After Ian kills himself, the others are sitting sadly in a pub. Then, Gillian Gilbert shows up to comfort them. After she sits down the shot lingers on them.....showing the classic lineup for New Order.
  • Retirony: Played with. Ian commits suicide on the eve of the band's first US tour, which would have made them famous as Closer became a hit not long after his death.
  • Running Gag: Ian and others are often making fun of The Buzzcocks's band name.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Ian kills himself after an argument with Debbie.
  • Talent Double: Averted by the actors. As previously stated above, they played the songs themselves, helped by there being plenty of Three Chords and the Truth songs. Sam Riley (who portrayed Curtis) having been the lead singer of a rock band once beforehand may have helped also.