“Where is your office? What do you do exactly? You know things. I think this is what you do. I think you acquire information and turn it into something awful.”
- Elise Shifrin
Here’s what I wrote about this film in my theatrical review:
“I have not read Don DeLillo’s novel Cosmopolis on which director David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method, Eastern Promises) based his screenplay, so I do not have a clue how the Canadian auteur hyper-sexualized adaptation compares to the source material. What I do know is that it fits distinctly within the director’s canon, a second cousin to Videodrome and Naked Lunch, and from the very first few moments I knew for certain whose world I was in and that I was in for a bumpy ride seriously unlike anything else out there at the moment.
Is that good news? In part. This movie has passion, a kinetic drive bordering on hypnotic. This is a world similar to our own yet at the same time completely alien, the parallel energies running through the proceedings keeping me off-balance and continually on the edge of my seat. As stilted and as aloof as the dialogue and the mannerisms can be, as theatrically monotone as he asks his cast to say their lines, there is reason to all the madness, a point to the tedium, everything building to a treatise on the here and now that packs a mighty wallop.
When I say wallop boy do I mean it. Star Robert Pattinson finds himself face-to-face with an oily parasitic bottom feeder – or so he seems – played with ferocious relish by Paul Giamatti. The artifice of all that’s preceded this sequence is slowly stripped away, the one-dimensionality of Pattinson’s portrait proven to be nothing more than another of Cronenberg’s illusions as the actor begins to awaken, evolve and emote in ways heretofore unseen. The points the director is trying to make, the ideas about wealth, self, life, poverty, country and community come crashing to earth, and even if the final fade to black is as vague as they come that doesn’t make the effect it had on me as I sat in the darkened theatre any less palpable.
It’s getting there that’s the chore. The movie concerns itself with a day in the life of financial whiz kid Eric Packer (Pattinson), heading off in his limo to get a haircut on the other side of Manhattan even though his chief of security Torval (Kevin Durand) urges him to do otherwise. Along the way he encounters his newlywed wife Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon), has meetings with various members of his inner circle (Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Philip Nozuka), hooks up with his artistic muse (Juliette Binoche) and has his daily medical checkup, almost all of these events taking place inside his high-tech vehicle.
These sequences, taken on their own, are more or less bizarre, disjointed and only tangentially connected. They are brief vignettes, all delivered in some sort of monosyllabic hallucinogenic dream state that’s decidedly unnerving. Emotions are raw, but you can’t ever get a grasp on any of them, Cronenberg keeping an aloof air of pretense and artifice throughout that’s hardly invigorating.
It all looks and sounds stunning, of course, and part of me is saddened by the fact few will take the time to search the picture out as just from a technical standpoint alone this is one of the better efforts of the entire year. Peter Suschitzky’s (Spider) cinematography is particularly stunning, and when you consider almost all of the action takes place inside a stretch limousine that’s high praise indeed. The film is also spectacularly edited by Ronald Sanders (The Bang Bang Club) and magnificently scored by Howard Shore (Hugo), their contributions key to making certain facets work as well as they do.
Even with my reservations, and I have many, more than I can easily get into here, I cannot get Cosmopolis out of my head. Where Cronenberg leads us to, the final discussion he catapults Pattinson and Giamatti inside of, the filmmaker manages to bring things full circle in a way I find fascinating. The acts and the illusions of the first 90 or so minutes are shown for what they were, the futility and drudgery of Packer’s ambitions revealed for what they are. The film may be a mess, but it’s something of a glorious mess, and for those willing to take the ride at the very least they’ll have engaged in journey they’re unlikely to soon forget.”
I’m not sure Cosmopolis will ever be considered great Cronenberg, but that doesn’t make it any less essential. The movie grows on you like a virus, entering unforgettable moments and themes into your head that refuse to vanish no matter how hard you might wish them to. It’s a prescient descent into modern madness that just might say more about the human race than we care to know, the final moments a haunting specter of ghostly moral malaise that’s shockingly, and tragically, universal. See it for yourself and you’ll hopefully understand what I’m getting at.
Cosmopolis is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and features optional English SDH subtitles.
Extras here include:
· Audio Commentary with writer/director David Cronenberg – Another quality commentary track from Cronenberg. Definitely worthy of a listen.
· Citizens of Cosmopolis (1:50:20) – This feature length making-of doc is an essential watch, let me tell you, adding huge insights into just what it was Cronenberg was hoping to achieve as well as being invaluable as it digs right into the center of his creative and storytelling process. Wonderful.
· Interviews with the Cast & Crew (27:10) – Solid interviews with many members of the cast and crew, including Cronenberg, Pattinson, Giamatti and composer Howard Shore (amongst many others), although it must be stated the majority of them just recycle comments and thoughts already made in the Citizens of Cosmopolis doc.
· Original Theatrical Trailer
Cosmopolis isn’t for everyone, true, but for fans of David Cronenberg watching it is borderline essential. As for everyone else, I’d suggest giving it a look all the same, the movie a peculiar, somewhat insidious, thought-provoking spectacle of the modern human condition that latches on like a virus and then refuses to let go.