Cosmopolis, based on Don DeLillo’s bestseller of the same name, is the first feature film both directed and written by David Cronenberg’s since eXistenZ. That, in a way, explains why the movie may be recognized as a very decent adaptation and an exceptional film in itself.
Cosmopolis comes as an utterly spellbinding, eye opening, perversely expressive and philosophically challenging evaluation of the 21st century’s economic crisis, placed in juxtaposition with a precise look at the main character’s gradually imploding life. It’s easy to notice that, in the finance-related sphere, this insightful neo-noir movie is also like a more ideological and, thus more enjoyable, version of Margin Call. The movie flows like an odyssey, without changing its well-balanced pace, focusing mostly on long, single takes.
Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a manipulative, emphatic, vainglorious, and filthy rich power broker from New York, decides he needs a haircut on one sunny and seemingly peaceful morning. He gets into his shiny, luxurious limousine (equipped with everything money can buy) and goes for a ride that will eventually turn his whole world upside down, in less than 24 hours. It’s so ridiculous that Eric spends the entire day stuck in a huge traffic, and, when he eventually gets to the barber shop (during the night), he gets only half of his hair cut.
The film’s conversation-driven narrative has Packer involved in various philosophical and overly perplexing encounters. Most of the time they are connected to very serious notions, such as existence, death, pain, money, future. In all the engaging, and sometimes mind numbing, dialogues we hear many incoherent one-liners that may definitely cause some disputes over their actual significance.
What’s interesting is that the limo seems like it’s some sort of a peculiar entity, totally detached from the human world, a kind of futuristic spaceship, taken straight out from a science fiction picture. Most of the time the viewer isn’t able to see what’s happening on the streets, but at one particular moment the barrier between the inside and the outside is suddenly broken, due to the violent riots caused by anarchists. ‘And a rat became the unit of currency’ – this illusory quote gets an entirely different meaning, as the protesters roam around town holding dead rats in their hands, signalizing the forthcoming political and financial collapse. The, so-called, cyber capitalism is abruptly coming to and, and Packer becomes one of the victims of its downfall. What’s more, he is also effectively creating his own demise in a very subtle manner.
Cronenberg did only a few slight changes to the book (the Japanese Yen is now the Chinese Yuan; Parker doesn’t have sex with his wife, like he wanted to so badly in the book), which truly enhance the director’s auteur approach to the film.
A surprisingly proper and convincing performance by Robert Pattison makes him look like an adequate choice for future roles in more ambitious production than Twilight or, lately, the overly dull Bel Ami. With his handsome looks, unmet sexual needs, self-conceit and arrogance, he reminds of two other well-known, fictional rich men – Patrick Bateman from American Psycho and Don Draper from Mad Men.
All in all, even though the movie might seem too complex or a bit boring, it still is definitely worth a watch, as it is both a great adaptation of the novel, and an interesting character study of not only the protagonist (antagonist?), but also all the limo passengers that appear on- screen for brief periods of time. And the tense final scene (‘duel’ between Parker and the assassin) makes the viewer realize that in our contemporary world two contradictory points of view may actually have more in common then one might expect.