×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cosmopolis

An eerily precise match of filmmaker and material, "Cosmopolis" probes the soullessness of the 1% with the cinematic equivalent of latex gloves.

With:
Eric Packer - Robert Pattinson
Didi Fancher - Juliette Binoche
Elise Shifrin - Sarah Gadon
Andre Petrescu - Mathieu Amalric
Shiner - Jay Baruchel
Torval - Kevin Durand
Brutha Fez - K'naan
Jane Melman - Emily Hampshire
Vija Kinski - Samantha Morton
Benno Levin - Paul Giamatti
Michael Chin - Philip Nozuka

An eerily precise match of filmmaker and material, “Cosmopolis” probes the soullessness of the 1% with the cinematic equivalent of latex gloves. Applying his icy intelligence to Don DeLillo’s prescient 2003 novel, David Cronenberg turns a young Wall Street titan’s daylong limo ride into a coolly corrosive allegory for an era of technological dependency, financial failure and pervasive paranoia, though the dialogue-heavy manner in which it engages these concepts remains distancing and somewhat impenetrable by design. While commercial reach will be limited to the more adventurous end of the specialty market, Robert Pattinson’s excellent performance reps an indispensable asset.

The first film based on a DeLillo tome, as well as Cronenberg’s first feature-length script since 1999’s “eXistenZ,” “Cosmopolis” is an uncommonly straightforward adaptation by a filmmaker who, in movies like “Naked Lunch” and “Spider,” found an inventive visual syntax for the psychological and intellectual conceits at work. Working here with a spare, episodic narrative and dialogue that teems with heady ideas, Cronenberg adopts a direct, scene-by-scene approach that crucially nails the novel’s tone of archly stylized pessimism.

Already an unholy pillar of capitalism at 28, handsome, sharply attired Eric Packer (Pattinson) decides he needs a haircut and sets out on the crosstown journey in his white stretch limousine, the interior of which is equipped with screens and gizmos that seem far more futuristic than the cold, gray Manhattan outside its windows. A presidential motorcade has slowed traffic to a crawl, giving this billionaire assets manager plenty of time for in-limo consultations with his chief of technology (Jay Baruchel) and currency analyst (Philip Nozuka), who warns his Eric he’s borrowing too aggressively against the Chinese yuan.

Escorted by security head Torval (Kevin Durand), Eric need not leave these leather-seated confines to have vigorous sex with a g.f. (Juliette Binoche), or to receive a lengthy prostate exam while chatting away with his finance chief (Emily Hampshire). Occasionally he’ll get out for bewilderingly frequent meetings with his demure, distant wife, Elise (Sarah Gadon). As day darkens into night, the limo moves past a rap star’s funeral procession and into a throng of protesters wielding fake rats as their monetary mascot.

Until the guns come out in the final act, each of Eric’s one-on-one meetings has essentially been a verbal sparring match. The initial discussions of technological and financial vulnerability give way to discussions of more abstract concepts: the primitive nature of sexual desire; the expendability of the masses for the sake of a visionary idea; the dizzying speed of human progress and the inability of language to keep up with it. Yet language is precisely what “Cosmopolis” has in abundance as it confronts the viewer with reams and reams of bluntly articulated, hyper-intellectual discourse.

Cronenberg lets DeLillo’s ideas speak for themselves but accents them visually, particularly in the way the camera plays up Eric’s monstrous callousness and arrogance by emphasizing his physical distance from the hovering crowds. Rarely venturing outside its protagonist’s ivory-tower-on-wheels, the film generates a mood of unsettling intimacy and isolation despite the chaotic swirl of human activity in the streets; it’s mass misery observed through a glass darkly — quite literally in the case of the limo’s tinted windows.

Charges that this study in emptiness and alienation itself feels empty and alienating are at once accurate and a bit beside the point, and perhaps the clearest confirmation that Cronenberg has done justice to his subject. In presenting such a close-up view of Eric’s inner sanctum, the film invites the viewer’s scorn and fascination simultaneously; to that end, the helmer has an ideal collaborator in Pattinson, whose callow yet charismatic features take on a seductively reptilian quality here. It’s the actor’s strongest screen performance and certainly his most substantial.

The other thesps make only fleeting impressions, though Samantha Morton gets some mileage out of her one-scene turn as Eric’s articulate chief of theory, and Mathieu Amalric gets a brief, hilarious appearance as a “pastry assassin” whose antics bring Rupert Murdoch’s 2011 pie-thrower incident to mind. In a role effectively tightened from the book, Paul Giamatti is superb as a sad sack who represents Eric’s antithesis in every particular.

Craft contributions are at the director’s high standard, from the crisp rhythms of Ronald Sanders’ editing and the cold, slightly metallic cast of Peter Suschitzky’s lensing to the unostentatious detail of Arv Greywal’s production design. Howard Shore supplies one of his subtler scores, at times registering as little more than an ominous background rumble.

Cosmopolis

Canada-France

Production: An Entertainment One (in North America/U.K.) release of a Paulo Branco and Martin Katz presentation of an Alfama Films, Prospero Pictures production in co-production with Kinologic Films (DC), France 2 Cinema, in association with Telefilm Canada, Talandracas Pictures, with the participation of France Televisions, Canal Plus, Rai Cinema, RTP, Ontario Media Development Corp., Astral Media the Harold Greenberg Fund, Jouror Prods., Leopardo Filmes. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Branco, Katz. Executive producers, Gregoire Melin, Edouard Carmignac, Renee Tab, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. Directed, written by David Cronenberg, based on the novel by Don DeLillo.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Peter Suschitzky; editor, Ronald Sanders; music, Howard Shore; production designer, Arv Greywal; art director, Joshu de Cartier; key set decorator, Steve Shewchuk; costume designer, Denise Cronenberg; sound (Dolby Digital), Jean-Paul Mugel; supervising sound editors, Wayne Griffin, Michael O'Farrell; re-recording mixers, Orest Sushko, O'Farrell; special effects coordinator, Warren Appleby; visual effects supervisor, Wojciech Zielinski; visual effects, Mr. X; stunt coordinators, John Stoneham Jr., Layton Morrison; line producer, Joseph Boccia; associate producer, Manuel Castelo-Branco; assistant director, Walter Gasparovic; casting, Deirdre Bowen. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 24, 2012. Running time: 109 MIN.

With: Eric Packer - Robert Pattinson
Didi Fancher - Juliette Binoche
Elise Shifrin - Sarah Gadon
Andre Petrescu - Mathieu Amalric
Shiner - Jay Baruchel
Torval - Kevin Durand
Brutha Fez - K'naan
Jane Melman - Emily Hampshire
Vija Kinski - Samantha Morton
Benno Levin - Paul Giamatti
Michael Chin - Philip Nozuka

More Film

  • General Delegate of the Cannes Film

    Cannes Reinstates Advance Press Screenings, But Favors TV, Radio Journalists (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following last year’s backlash by film critics over changes to its screenings schedule, the Cannes Film Festival has decided to reinstate morning press screenings for movies having their gala world premieres in the evening. But there’s a catch: Only a few hundred journalists — mainly from TV and radio outlets — will be admitted, and [...]

  • Someone Great

    Film Review: ‘Someone Great’

    There simply aren’t enough modern romantic comedies that cherish the merits of female friendship in the aftermath of a romantic breakup. There are even fewer that feel like a personal, lived-in experience. Female-driven raunchcoms (like “Girls Trip”) have explored this territory to a certain extent, though many stop short of delivering genuine poignancy (like “Rough [...]

  • Actresses take part in the #metoo

    Cannes Grows More Inclusive, Boosts Number of Female Filmmakers

    In 1946, the inaugural year of the Cannes Film Festival, Barbara Virginia’s surrealist film, “Tres dias sem Deus” debuted in competition. Over the subsequent seven decades, as it has grown in stature to become one of the world’s premier film gatherings, Cannes hasn’t matched that early promise in highlighting female artists. Finally, the powers that [...]

  • Rocketman

    Cannes: 2019 Lineup Includes 'Rocketman' and Films by 13 Women

    The 72nd Cannes Film Festival has announced its lineup, unveiling an official selection that includes 13 female filmmakers, a number of genre movies, more American titles than last year and an opportunity for Elton John to make a star turn on the Croisette. Twelve of the 47 films announced Thursday are directed by women (one [...]

  • Cannes Unveils 2019 Official Selection (Watch

    Cannes Lineup Announcement: How to Watch

    The 72nd Cannes Film Festival is announcing the films chosen for “official selection” — including those competing for the event’s coveted Palme d’Or prize — in a press conference Thursday starting at 11 a.m. in Paris. The livestream of the press conference is available here. (Please note that the broadcast seldom starts on time.) Last [...]

  • Godzilla

    'Godzilla' Owner Toho Poised for Expansion in Hollywood

    Toho, the largest movie group in Japan, is expanding a subsidiary in the U.S. with a view to working more with Hollywood. The company said that its existing Toho International Inc. subsidiary has been injected with $14 million (JPY15.4 billion), through a share issue subscribed to by the parent company. The subsidiary has existed since [...]

  • View Conference Opens Registration for 2019

    2019 View Conference Opens Registration, Calls for Short Film Competition Entries

    Registration is now open for the 2019 edition of the View Conference in Turin, Italy. No speakers have been announced yet, but past conferences have featured some of the world’s top creative talents in visual effects, animation, gaming, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. Last year’s edition featured composer Hans Zimmer, Paramount Animation topper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content