Cosmopolis Review – Curmudgeonly Cronenberg


Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: David Cronenberg (screenplay), Don DeLillio (novel)

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand


Release date: August 17th, 2012

Distributor: eOne Films 

Countries: USA, Canada, France, Italy, Portugal 

Running time: 109 minutes


3½/5

Best part: The pulsating cinematography.

Worst part: The unintelligible messages.

David Cronenberg’s style screams of psycho-sexuality and disgusting yet symbolic imagery. The Canadian director of such sci-fi classics as The Fly and Videodrome has changed genres over the last decade to create subtly violent dramatic thrillers. So its both welcome and strange that his latest film Cosmopolis combines elements from his two genre styles in a unique yet polarising fashion to create an alarming vision of our near-future economic infrastructure.

Robert Pattinson.

Cosmopolis illustrates the entrapment a crumbling corporate America has on its citizens. Sleazy businessman Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) enjoys a shallow life in his limo/office. His debauchery however takes a turn for the affecting worst as his trip downtown for a haircut leaves him in the traffic jam from urban hell. With frequent encounters with slimy friends and business associates close to his sinful actions, his role as a vital part of the corporate chain will be violently cut off. Both subversive and confusing simultaneously, Cosmopolis never goes beyond the visceral heights of its marketing. Its jarring whenever dialogue suddenly turns into freaky love making and sickening violence, as these tonal shifts provide obvious visual stimulus for old school Cronenberg fans. These moments however are not only alarmingly masochistic but darken the struggle for Pattinson’s character to stay on top.

Juliette Binoche.

Juliette Binoche.

Cronenberg’s visual metaphors create many beautiful and tension filled moments. With rats symbolising the creation and power of money, tiny details aid the execution of crumbling corporate-run characters and psychotic yet thought provoking sequences similarly to Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. The film, much like Cronenberg’s previous psychoanalytic drama A Dangerous Method, creates the temperate, dialogue based structure of a stage production. A number of small sets, obtuse camera angles and extended Tarantino-esque tension filled dialogue moments provide a prominent feeling of pathos for this slick story of survival in a socially and economically crumbling New York City. Despite the film’s slow pace, the contrast between common New York settings and cool limo interior succinctly illustrates the isolation of Pattinson’s disturbed character. He somehow lives the enviable life over one day in his ride. Business meetings with a strange array of associates, adulterous sex with older women, Colonoscopies and casual cruising of the stock market from the comfort of his futuristic, blue streaked limo provide visual characteristics of Pattinson’s selfish and morally ambiguous character.

“The logical extension of business is murder.” (Eric Packer (Robert Patinson), Cosmopolis).

Paul Giamatti.

Paul Giamatti.

The film’s social commentary is sadly lost in the anarchic struggle for survival in a torn down wall street. While providing the point of the ‘occupy wall street’ movement  and the economic breakdown across the globe, its never explains why they’re terrible for Pattinson’s  suit-clad anti hero or how they should be resolved. What is also unexplained is the moral status of Pattinson’s sleazy business type. Constantly contradicting his every smart move with adultery, violence and self centred preaching of his own trauma, Cronenberg’s ode to the anti-heroes of French New Wave provides a frustratingly alienated figure void of empathy or emotional depth. However prevalent character actors in small roles, including Jay Baruchel, Mathieu Almaric, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, Kevin Durand (channeling Christopher Walken as Packer’s bodyguard/ limo driver) and Paul Giamatti as a sweaty, obsessive type, provide necessary life for this cold story of a heartless, economic, upper class society forced into facing its own consequences.

Cosmopolis may not be the most revelatory genre film in Cronenberg’s resume, but its kaleidoscopic visuals and ambiguously tense dialogue sequences create a corporate espionage drama worthy of his prowess.

Verdict: A polarising yet delectable mix of old and new style Cronenberg.

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