How "Cronenberg-y" Is This Movie, Really? Well, Cronenberg didn't write it (it's based on the Don DeLillo novel), so the body horror stuff is limited to a protracted rectal exam and a close up gunshot.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three asymmetric prostates out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Sociopathic one-percenter ignores portents of doom while riding in limo, possibly dies.
Tagline: "How far can he go before he goes too far?"
Better Tagline: "Ayatollah's got his problems too."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: 28-year old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) wants a haircut, and is prepared to spend the entire day in his high-end limousine, plagued by traffic jams (the President's in town) and Wall Street protests to get one. Along the way, he entertains (for varying definitions of the word) employees, subordinates and his new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon) and watches as his bold move to sink billions into shorting the Chinese yuan backfires in spectacular fashion. Oh, and there's evidently a "credible threat" against his person.
"Critical" Analysis: Director David Cronenberg has often danced around the idea that bad things are just around the corner. Videodrome unveiled sinister shadow government conspiracies, while eXistenZ grappled with questions of technology and who ultimately controls it. Cosmopolis, on the other hand, feels more immediately apocalyptic than anything the director has done before.
To be sure, he isn't playing coy with the audience. From verified threats against the President to an assault on the Director of the IMF to the growing probability of an attack on Packer himself, this sense of looming catastrophe is played against the backdrop of "Occupy"-style protests taking place in the city (one sequence in which Packer and his chief adviser, played by Samantha Morton, are caught up in the chaos is quite nifty, and not just because my love for Morton is a thing of undying perfection).
Packer is obsessed with time, which makes sense from the perspective of a man who's risen to the upper echelons of capitalism before his 30th birthday. He views it both as a corporate asset as well as a means to convince his apparently frigid wife to have sex with him ("Time is thin and grows scarcer every day"). Eh, I've heard worse lines. I won't say he's ever actually sympathetic, but the character of Packer is somewhat intriguing before he devolves into full-bore lunacy.
Cronenberg almost seems like he's going out of his way to make you dislike Cosmopolis. From a chilly, uber-rich "protagonist" who literally fucks minorities (his bodyguard) and the elderly (fine, Juliette Binoche is only 48, but she might as well be 90 by Hollywood standards) to the largely nonsensical plot: Patrick's company is about to go tits up because of his risky shorting strategy, which is difficult to believe for a mathematical genius (so we're told) as adept at creating predictive financial models as he is. Then we come to realize it's all part of his grand strategy to end it all. Or something.
Cosmopolis really threatens to fall apart at the ending. For all the doomsday build-up we get in the first 90 minutes, Packer's primary antagonist (who isn't Packer himself) turns out to be such a predictably mundane construct you can't help but feel crestfallen.
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I have two theories I'm not going to explore very deeply here. One is that Cronenberg isn't an especially big fan of Delillo, and purposely aggravated the shortcomings in the source material. The other is that Cronenberg himself is terminally ill, and Cosmopolis is his not-so teary send-off to himself. It's almost worth a look from the morbid curiosity standpoint alone.
Even if the (non)ending leaves you cold, I'll still recommend Cosmopolis for Cronenberg's clinical style (which is a perfect fit for the subject matter) and supporting perfomances by Morton, Binoche, and Emily Hampshire (as Packer's chief of finance). But then, the directors has a way with aloof male protagonists and the slightly off-kilter women they attach themselves to.
Cosmopolis is in theaters today. See it if only to help Pattinson get that Twilight monkey off his back.