David Cronenberg likes to push boundaries in his films. He tests his often twisted characters to new extremes and films the results. Here in Cosmopolis capitalism provides his focus. Helping him retell Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name is a well-dressed Robert Pattinson, who plays genius billionaire Eric Packer.
The film opens with Packer’s simple wish to get a haircut. This forms the basis of the film’s journey and we watch as he travels through Manhattan in a stretched limo to achieve his goal. His security team are unnerved by his wishes as it means journeying through the manic city but Packer, clearly bored with what life throws at him, forcefully ignores their objections. During his day-long limo ride he encounters various people, many of whom do business with him within the confines of the vehicle. Much of the first half of the film takes place in this haven and we watch as he has sex in between serious theoretical meetings and medical appointments.
Packer’s actions border on OCD. He holds a clinical outlook on life and analyses situations in abnormal ways. In doing so he alienates those around him, including his estranged wife, whom he meets periodically throughout the day for meals. His simple quest is threatened by an inner city riot and soon he finds his stringent emotions bruised by some seemingly incidental news. Violence begins to overshadow his increasingly bad day, ultimately resulting in a philosophical talk with one of the many people who wish to kill him.
People intrigued by the film’s blazing pumping trailer beware, the action it promises is sparse; talking is something that the film does a lot of even though the dialogue is often prim and stilted. Packer often has philosophical back and forths about the ways of the world and it is these which provide much of the film’s interesting, if at times indecipherable, food for thought. Although it tends to get bogged down in its ideas, it’s refreshing to see a film that speaks so openly about the theoretical notions behind capitalism and paranoia – even if it does so just a bit too long.
Cosmopolis is a film filled with ideas. It explores the notions that money has somehow lost its narrative and that time has become a somewhat corporate asset. Such ideas are intriguing but get in the way of an actual story and the film often feels like it’s lost in its high-brow chit-chat. When the ideas play out around the main characters however the film quickens its stride. Pay close attention to the opening quote as it has an impact on much of the film.
Due to his tyrannical nature it’s hard to grow too fond of Packer which ultimately means you’re unattached to his fate. This is through no fault on Pattinson’s part, instead he manages to shake off the perceptions built around his career to provide a enigmatic and powerful performance. The film manages to shock more than once and Cronenberg’s smooth directorial style helps for a pleasurable, if a little confusing, film about a man pushing at his own limits.
Most appropriate line: ‘I understand none of it’.