out of Five
Running time: 108
Cronenberg's DeLillo adaptation has some interesting ideas, presents an intriguingly sealed-off view of the world and features a genuinely superb performance from Robert Pattinson, but the pacing slows to a crawl in the central section and the deliberately distancing script is too dry to engage on an emotional level.
What's it all about?
Directed by David Cronenberg, Cosmopolis is based on the 2003 novel by Don DeLillo and stars Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, a 28 year old billionaire who's made his fortune in the stock market and the tech industries. Against the advice of his chief of security (Kevin Durand), who warns him of an imminent threat, Eric decides to take a limo ride across New York in order to get a haircut.
Along the way, he has a variety of encounters both inside and outside of the limo, including: a meeting with his IT genius (Jay Baruchel); sex with his art dealer (Juliette Binoche); an in-limo prostate exam during a meeting with office manager (Emily Hampshire); breakfast with his wealthy new wife (Sarah Gadon); a meeting with his theory coach (Samantha Morton); a run-in with a pie-throwing protester (Mathieu Amalric); and an encounter with a disgruntled ex-employee (Paul Giamatti).
The surprisingly prescient novel (which seems, among other things, to have predicted the financial crisis) is concerned with personal alienation in a world where business, information, money, love, sex, happiness (basically, everything) are losing all meaning. To that end, Cronenberg's casting of Robert Pattinson is a stroke of genius, as his haunted eyes and seemingly blank, strikingly attractive face are perfectly suited to a man who has everything he could possibly want at the age of 28 and wonders what else is left; Pattinson, in turn, rewards Cronenberg's faith in him with his best performance to date, indicating that there may be life after Twilight for him after all.
The supporting cast are equally good, particularly Gadon, Binoche and Giamatti, who all generate interesting sparks with Pattinson. Similarly, Cronenberg's cold, clinical direction presents a fascinating, sealed-off worldview from within the sound-proof limo, though this is diminished whenever the action reluctantly leaves the car; on top of this there are several memorable images and moments, such as protesters demonstrating with dead rats or the prostate exam scene (the film's best sequence).
The film's structure is as frustrating as it is intriguing, with scenes beginning and ending abruptly, often mid-encounter and the pacing slowing to a crawl in the film's middle section. However, the main problem with the film is the deliberately distancing dialogue, which is overly wordy and is often flatly delivered in such a way that it becomes repetitive and boring, which makes it extremely difficult to engage with any of the characters.
The emotional emptiness of Cosmopolis may be thematically relevant, but it makes for a difficult viewing experience, though there are compensatory elements in both the performances and direction.