Studio: E1 Entertainment
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Emily Hampshire, Samantha Morton, Bob Bainborough, Jay Baruchel, Philip Nozuka, Patricia McKenzie, Mathieu Amalric, Abdul Ayoola, K'naan
Director: David Cronenberg
Release Date: January 01, 2013
Rating: R for some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language
Run Time: 01h:49m:16s
"Where is your office? What do you do exactly? You know things, I think this is what you do. I think you acquire information and turn it into something awful."
- Elise (Sarah Gadon)
I'm a big fan of David Cronenberg, which makes it doubly hard to admit that Cosmopolis left me dulled and only occasionally attentive. The extras, on the other hand, are fantastic.
Movie Grade: C+
DVD Grade: A-
According to the supplemental material David Cronenberg wrote the screenplay for Cosmopolis in six days, using practically all of author Don DeLillo's dialogue from the 2003 novel. DeLillo's exploration of excess and decadence was a profoundly mesmerizing experience, which makes Cronenberg's adaptation - which uses so much of the original source material verbatim - such a confounding and iffy end product. By definition there should be much of the same undercurrent of dangerous techno/capitalism set amongst an odd lot of characters, but instead the film version of Cosmopolis comes off distant and pretentious, filled with scene after scene of DeLillo's powerful dialogue delivered by a stable of talented supporting actors, directed with the expected visual quirk of an adventurous and creative director like Cronenberg.
I just don't understand how it all went so wrong.
The setup is fairly simple: Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) is a young, wealthy capitalist in New York City, and he wants a haircut. What Eric does for a living is never exactly clear but the fact that he spends much of the film holding court in a high-tech limousine as he travels through the city speaks volumes about his power base; he even has his medical exams in the limo, where his "asymmetrical prostate" becomes a sign of impending doom. He has bodyguards - led by Torval (Kevin Durand) - and over the course of Cosmopolis it becomes clear that Eric's hold on the future - in terms of wealth, sanity and life - is tenuous. Against the best wishes of Torval the symbolic journey to get a haircut begins and it is the starting point for a series of events that signal the complete descent of Eric Packer.
Along the way he encounters an assortment of characters, including but not limited to his ex-wife (Sarah Gadon), his mistress (Juliette Binoche), his chief advisor (Samantha Morton) and his chief of finance (Emily Hampshire). Each provide insight into what makes Eric Packer tick, as well as offering breadcrumbs of information international events and how it impacts them all. A global financial crisis occurs as the centerpiece, with Morton's Vija announcing that "money has lost its narrative quality", and as the journey to get a haircut continues the world outside the limo begins to crumble, and Eric heads straight into his own personal abyss, culminating with an encounter with the enigmatic and dangerous Benno (Paul Giamatti).
One of the criticisms heaped on Cosmopolis was the way the characters speak, most of whom talk in precise, stylized bursts of dialogue. Sure, these are DeLillo's words - by Cronenberg's own admission - but they somehow seem to come off better on the page than they do actually coming out of someone's mouth. Hearing the words aloud seems to escalate the affected factor to uncomfortable levels for me, even when it is delivered by actors I traditionally love such as Morton, Binoche and Giamatti. Pattinson - someone pigeonholed by the tween success of the Twilight juggernaut - is perfectly fine as Packer, because his clipped monotone and strange utterings ("You have your mother's breasts") are spot on for the inherent weirdness of his character.
For me to break bad on Cronenberg here is a tough one, simply because I hold his creative work in such high regard. I may be in the minority, but I have to call it like I see it. To put it bluntly: Cosmopolis bored me. There, I've said it. I don't feel better, but I've said it.
The 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer is a tad uneven, yet the sort of offering that when it is on it looks spectacular. Sequences outside of the limo - such as the restaurant scene with Eric and Elise - are resplendent in bright colors and strong facial/textural details, where other moments - a nightclub scene or a particular sexual encounter - seem to suffer from extremely weak black levels. The transfer - pristine and clean in terms of debris (no surprise, as it was shot digitally) has more positives than negatives, but the inconsistencies are difficult to ignore.
Audio is presented with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is underwhelming in its simplicity, but one that delivers clear dialogue with a minimum of rear channel and LFE presence (though when it is used it is used to great effect).
The extras here are all better than the feature film, beginning with a commentary from David Cronenberg. Though his delivery may be low-key, the level of insight and information he conveys is remarkable, fascinating and intelligent. This is the sort of track that almost makes me want to rethink my evaluation of Cosmopolis (keyword "almost") and while I did not like the film I found Cronenberg's comments invaluable and informative.
The feature-length (actually longer than the feature) making-of Citizens of Cosmopolis (01h:50m:21s) is another supplement that made consider changing my tune on the film, with its in-depth dissection, with comments from nearly all of the cast, as well as Cronenberg and producer Paulo Branco. It is full of spoilers, so you should watch Cosmopolis first, but this doc is very solid. Interviews with Cast and Crew (27m:06s) borrows some of the content from Citizens of Cosmopolis, and is a more condensed exploration of the project, Cronenberg's approach and the way the actors took on their roles. The film's curiously intriguing theatrical trailer is also included.
Posted by: Rich Rosell - February 3, 2013, 8:15 am - DVD Review
Keywords: david cronenberg, don delillo, capitalism, technology