Directed by David Cronenberg
Distributed by Entertainment One
There are few filmmakers whose work this writer so eagerly anticipates more than David Cronenberg. The celebrated auteur, whose oeuvre now spans the course of nearly forty years, has quite an interesting career trajectory – beginning with some quite disturbing (and quite brilliant) body horror films, before detouring into more psychological thriller territory and eventually winding up at the types of dramas that light up award seasons. Through all of it, though, the man’s themes have remained consistent, no matter the genre. His latest, Cosmopolis, an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s incredibly prescient 2003 novel of the same name, indeed seems to wrestle with some of Cronenberg’s usual concerns as a storyteller. However, while the film is certainly well made and fiercely original, it ultimately failed to connect with this viewer due to its meandering story and utterly impenetrable dialogue.
Eric Packer (Pattinson) is a twentysomething Wall Street type worth billions, who sets off across town in his extravagant limo/mobile office on an odyssey through a metropolis suffering from extreme traffic congestion (due to riots and a visit from the President), all in order to get a haircut from a barber he was once acquainted with. Along the way, Packer takes business meetings, has sexual encounters, gets a prostate exam, dodges death threats and rioters, and ruminates on money, mortality, and society, all while rarely leaving his car. His sanity begins to erode over the course of the day while his fortunes slip away from him, as he edges ever so slowly toward his final destination.
As it is a Cronenberg film, Cosmopolis is masterfully crafted with beautiful photography and a great score, featuring solid performances from each of his actors (yes, even from Pattinson, who acquits himself quite well here with his fine performance). It’s a shame, then, that it is so unmercifully dull, rattling out a series of scenes episodically with little in the way of decent pacing. And that dialogue! While most of Cronenberg’s films have boasted stylized performances and wordplay, this is the first of his works to feature characters that seem utterly alien in nature. As a result, the movie left this writer completely cold, being the second-ever Cronenflick to be anything less than fantastic to me. Still, I appreciate that Cronenberg continues to take risks and tell unusual stories, all while staying at the top of his game technically, and I eagerly await his next film.
Because I appreciate the man’s work, and as such I feel the need to be more than fair when it comes to one of his films, I would like to point you to another, far more positive review – check out Andrew Kasch’s review here. While I didn’t see the same film that he did, I wish I had, and I’d be remiss not to accept that there are many who might enjoy it more than I. With that, I’ll leave you to his take on the film.
Entertainment One’s release of Cosmopolis has a pristine image, perfectly preserving the film’s gorgeous digital photography. Clarity is crisp, colors are beautiful, and the darks are mostly solid (though a few scenes look a bit murky from time to time). Likewise, the DTS 5.1 audio track is solid, with crystal clear dialogue and some fantastic detail (it’s worth noting that the track is hardly bombastic, this being movie almost entirely driven by dialogue).
On the bonus feature side, we have but a few offerings, though they are substantial. First up is Citizens of Cosmopolis, a feature-length doc on the making of the film. Here we have the filmmakers and actors talking at length about the film’s production and its themes, broken up with several sequences showing the day-to-day grind of the production. It’s a fantastic look at a master filmmaker at work, showing the calm, softspoken director in complete command of his set. For Cronenberg fans, the price of this disc is worth it for this feature alone. It’s essential viewing, and more enjoyable than the film itself. Likewise, Cronenberg’s audio commentary, where he elucidates upon the film’s meanings and discusses its making, is far more interesting than the film being discussed. It’s worth watching the film, if only to rewatch it with Cronenberg’s talk just after. Rounding off the set is a theatrical trailer, which sells a charged thriller that doesn’t actually exist.
Ultimately, if you’re a Cronenphile, this disc should be a must buy for its bonus features alone. Because it’s a new work from the brilliant filmmaker, you should consider it a must see in order to make up your own mind about its worth. Casual viewers, though? You’re going to want to skip this film. Or just plain race away from it screaming.
2 out of 5
4 out of 5