Dir. David Cronenberg. Starring Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Juliette Binoche, Jay Baruchel, Paul Giamatti. 108 mins.
28-year-old billionaire asset manager Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) wants a haircut. His prostate is asymmetrical. The Chinese Yuan is falling. A visit from the U.S. President is causing traffic havoc in New York. Anti-capitalist activists storm the streets. Digital billboards project haunting messages: ‘A spectre is haunting the world.’
David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel of the same name is a glossy, ponderous odyssey of self-destruction and the fall of capitalism. Isolated in his expensive, customised limousine, Packer is far removed from the real world as he sits atop his black leather throne. New York creeps past his tinted windows; even rioters defacing Packer’s office-on-wheels fail to disrupt one of the many meetings that take place in that crawling, sound-proofed microcosm, be it for business or pleasure. The sounds of the city streets only pierce through when a window or a door is opened, providing an eerie silence throughout many conversations.
Pattinson does an excellent job as Packer. His vampiric handsomeness lends itself well to a dour performance of a character whose desperation to break free from his self-inflicted confines becomes increasingly apparent with each meeting or sexual encounter. His relationship with his new wife, Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon), whom he meets routinely around the city for each meal, is already stale. A curious tension exists between Packer and his uptight chief of security, Torval (Kevin Durand), who repeatedly warns of imminent threats and advises they leave the area. This contrasts with Packer’s swelling desire for self-destruction. He welcomes the danger; he just wants to feel alive again.
With the exception of Paul Giamatti as the mentally unstable blue-collar Benno Levin, much of the supporting cast visiting the limo give stilted performances, seemingly reciting dialogue straight from DeLillo’s novel. This is a deliberate and affecting decision on Cronenberg’s part, enforcing DeLillo’s creepy and insipid portrayal of the world Packer inhabits and wishes to escape.
Cosmopolis is yet another victim of misleading marketing: trailers sell an action-packed film, full of guns, sex and rioting. All three aspects are present, especially sex, but only as part of a brooding, slow-paced story, 80% of which takes place in a limousine. The ending may split opinion, but once you settle into the slow rhythm of the film Cronenberg offers an interesting and thought-provoking ride that is both faithful to DeLillo’s novel and his own vision. Much like Packer’s limo, Cosmopolis is a sleek and stylish cinematic vehicle; a perfect match between author and director.
Cosmopolis is showing tonight at City Screen York – 20:55 screening.