With this very country steeped in the middle, heading directly into the center, of an election season, the topic of this nation’s economic status has become as front and center as it ever has. And as the mirror upon society itself that cinema embraces itself as being, who better to give his take on the economic crisis than none other than David Cronenberg.
Last seen behind the camera for the Freud drama A Dangerous Method, the auteur is back with his philosophically existential drama, Cosmopolis. An adaptation of the beloved Don DeLillo novel of the same name, Cronenberg takes the idea of the existential nature of the recession and the issues involved in birthing it, and blends it with his interest in the importance and resonance of violence turning it all into what may very well be one of his greatest films to date, passing even the likes of A History Of Violence or Eastern Promises.
Walking out of the theater, one may have a tough time describing exactly what this film is about. Premise wise, Cosmopolis is relatively simplistic. The film stars Robert Pattinson as a young, 28-year-old mogul who, over the span of one day, loses his fortune, gets divorced from his recently wedded wife, is stalked and is accosted by a thinly veiled collection of violence-prone Occupy protesters. Betting his money on a currency that completely falls to its knees, Pattinson’s Eric Packer turns from mid-twenties number crunching wunderkind into a broken youngster with an a-symmetrical prostate over the span of nearly two hours. However, the film is so very much more than that.
Cosmopolis is a true return to form for Cronenberg, particularly after an interesting, if flawed, misstep in the form of Dangerous Method. Set almost entirely inside the confines of either a building or, more so, a limousine, Cronenberg is able to turn what would seem to be something akin to watching a stage play into one of the year’s most cinematic feature films. Be it flights of existential angst like a sequence of the aforementioned limo being destroyed by protesters or a pair of men flinging rats through a diner, Cronenberg doesn’t settle for simply pointing and shooting this feature, despite how distilled and ‘talkie’ the film truly is.
Dense as a brick, Cosmopolis breathtaking. On the surface a film about our economic crisis, the antagonizing and in your face nature of the film’s philosophizing is that only able to be crafted by a man not of the US. The Canadian Cronenberg attempts to give his viewers a blend of his body-centric horror (particularly during a sequence involving our lead getting a check-up, of which he does daily) while also proving that the recession was bred by something far more distinct and evil: human nature. A brazenly cold and aggressive feature, Cosmopolis attempts to give its audience a look into the dangers and inherent evils of capitalism, an idea and philosophy that Cronenberg and author DeLillo deem inherently evil and uncompromising. It’s a film that the economist version of Hunter S. Thompson would have penned.
Giving us our first real glimpse into what he’s truly able to do, star Robert Pattinson is brilliant here. Able to convey every single aspect of this character with tonal perfection, Pattinson is able to be both deeply involved with what is going on around him while also seeming not to give a single care about it. This existential ease is inherent within the film, but the crisis that is held deep within him, the fear of imperfection, is also inherent. This dichotomy, a dichotomy that is inherent within both the housing and economic crisis, its lead up and those involved, is played with award-worthy strength on the face of Pattinson, an actor who many thought didn’t have this type of performance in him. Able to go toe to toe with the likes of Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti (both of whom are equally great here) and stand supreme, Pattinson gives a career-making performance here, one that will hopefully be remembered later this year, and come Oscar time next.
Both Morton and Giamatti are great here, both being given arguably the longest sequences with Pattinson in the film. Morton plays Pattinson’s ‘Chief Of Theory,’ and gives arguably the film’s densest set piece. Discussing how capitalism and the future are inherently intertwined, this sequence is the film’s strongest, and also the most important within the film’s greater themes and plot. Touching on nearly every idea the film has to offer, the density within this conversation is high, and yet you truly believe that everyone involved here understands perfectly what the other is saying. Giamiatti’s sequence is also great, but far more emotionally resonant, particularly come the finale, with a final line that may be the best of the year.
Visually inspired, Cosmopolis is far from a crowd-pleasing body horror picture like early Croneberg. However, much like his recently much-talked about Videodrome, Cronenberg is able to take a subject of the highest importance, turn it on its head with his own distinct and dystopic eye, and give us something that none of the onslaught of financial crisis-focused dramas have: the spiritual side of it all. Truly a film bred out of every human’s existential nightmares, Cosmopolis is not a film that will be easily forgotten or deciphered. But if you are able to connect with it and converse with it, in a way, than you may never be able to shake loose from Cronenberg’s grip.