Continuing down the relatively restrained path upon which he first embarked several years ago with the release of History of Violence and Eastern Promises, director David Cronenberg’s newest film, Cosmopolis, is currently available on Blu-ray from Entertainment One. Cosmopolis is a cerebral exploration of wealth and its social and personal consequences, adapted from the Don Delillo novel of the same title, and starring teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson as sociopathic fiscal maverick Erick Packer. In addition to Pattinson, the film features a laundry list of respectable supporting performers, including Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Jay Baruchel, and Juliette Binoche.
Lost in the insular universe of his private, cybernetically pimped-out personal limousine, twenty-eight-year-old billionaire Eric Packer languidly cruises the streets of New York City, conducting business with a host of personal and professional associates, ostensibly with the ultimate goal of stopping to get a haircut. Through a series of intense and verbally complicated exchanges, it becomes clear that Packer’s empire is due for a sharp decline, thanks to a sudden unpredictable shift in Chinese currency which has apocalyptically affected all of his investments. As Packer remains obstinately detached from the situation, his movements through the city begin taking on a penetrating and nightmarish quality. His life is threatened by an obscure source, and he becomes increasingly beset by vengeful street protesters who view him as a symbol of large-scale economic predation.
The two main problems with Cosmopolis are its philosophical density, and its lack of visual dynamism. The interactions between characters are intense and absorbing, but ultimately fail to coherently gel into an accessible narrative. Like Cronenberg’s last movie, A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis fuses the personal trajectory of its central character with a buried subtextual agenda, intending for the two narrative threads to augment and elaborate upon each other.
Unlike Dangerous Method, however, Cosmopolis comes across as a network of provocative but impenetrable ideas, much like its coldly impenetrable main character. It’s also infused with a strain of intense but directionless technoparanoia, perhaps striving to equate the intangibility of cybertechnology with the increasingly intangible nature of money and capital. These suggestions are intriguing, partially because of the way they call back to earlier advents in Cronenberg’s career that explored the relationship between technology and human endeavor such as Videodrome, but Cosmopolis’ allusions by comparison are tantalizingly vague, and therefore ultimately superfluous.
Even if it’s not very satisfying overall, Cosmopolis isn’t without compelling moments, and Entertainment One’s disc is impressively stacked, featuring cast and crew interviews with Cronenberg, Pattinson and others, and a behind-the-scenes documentary detailing the project’s gestation that’s almost as long as the film itself. Cosmopolis may not be Cronenberg’s most overwhelmingly engaging film, but it’s a noble effort with a strong cast, and some very strong ideas.
Read CraveOnline's original theatrical review of Cosmopolis.