'Cosmopolis' Movie Review (2012)

Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis
Robert Pattinson in Cosmopolis
Photo: eOne Entertainment

It's a new morning in New York City and newlywed, billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) wants a haircut. The President is in town, which is causing massive traffic jams, but nevermind, he's made his decision and, even if it takes all day, he's going to get that haircut. This, in the most simplest of terms, is the plot of David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis based on the novel by Don DeLillo. The film, and its telling, as it turns out, are so much more, delivering a commentary on the lives we lead, where we are going, where we have been, where we are right now and what we must do if we are to truly gain "freedom". And I can't say I have even started to scratch the surface of everything it explores.

Grade: B

Cosmopolis"Cosmopolis" is a eOne Films release, directed by David Cronenberg and is rated R for some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language. The running time is .

The cast includes Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Durand, Emily Hampshire and Gouchy Boy.

Multiple viewings are essentially required for Cosmopolis to even begin to dissect each and every nuance of its story. It begins with a conversation between Packer and his head of security (Kevin Durand) in a stilted back-and-forth of words almost robotic in nature and definitely not a pattern of every day speech you or I recognize.

From here it's into Packer's stretch limo. He's been informed the President is in town. Later he'll learn of a funeral procession also slowing traffic while at the same time learn a threat has been made against his life. All of this is presented in words that may as well be corporate briefings. It's all very matter-of-fact and in no way does it raise an emotional eyebrow.

Over the course of his travels through town Packer takes meetings in his limousine with a variety of advisors, acquaintances and doctors. At one point he has quite the intense conversation with one female friend (Emily Hampshire) while he gets his daily physical, a physical that ends with the longest prostate examination the world has ever known.

Protests erupt, Packer has monotone conversations with his wife (Sarah Gadon) about his desire for sex and her unwillingness to give in, he cheats on her, more than once, he's confronted by a protester and rats are contemplated as currency. All the while, Packer is rapidly loosing his fortune over the course of the day due to a bad investment. In order to create you must first destroy. Packer is learning this as a variety of themes and metaphors populate the picture, but one reason I need to see it again is because I was captivated by the filmmaking itself.

The strange reality Cronenberg creates had me focused on every syllable of dialogue, movement of each actor and blocking of each scene. Packer takes to sitting in what could be described as a throne in the back of his 20-foot symbol of opulence, the window occasionally lowering to speak to his head of security and the other seats frequented by his visitors. However, there are moments his "throne" is occupied by another, lessening Packer's status in the vehicle. Purposefully? In the film's final scene this style of storytelling is even more prevalent and effective.

Then there's the manner of speech and the use of green screen. During the opening scenes, as I mentioned, the actors are almost robotic in nature, their words uttered as if by a computer rather than a human. However, throughout the film this begins to change and conversations become more "real," more human.

The same goes for the way the film is shot and the use of green screen outside Packer's limo. In early scenes it's glaringly obvious the world outside Packer's tinted windows is fake, but as the film progresses the outside world begins closing in and reality begins to take hold. It's fascinating the control over the narrative Cronenberg exhibits in his storytelling alone and then there are the performances.

Robert Pattinson is primarily known as Edward from the Twilight series, a franchise that has done him no favors. However, in Cosmopolis all the work he's put in before is washed away as if it never existed. This is Pattinson's finest hour, his performance compliments everything I just described having to do with Cronenberg's filmmaking achievements, all leading up to an outstanding final scene in which Pattinson goes toe-to-toe with Paul Giamatti and the two knock it out of the park.

In this world all stand tall from those already mentioned to Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric, Samantha Morton and Patricia McKenzie. The hardest part with it all is finding an "in".

Cosmopolis is fascinating, but it's far from mainstream entertainment. It's not at all accessible to general audiences looking for an easily digestible feature and as much as I respect it, even I was looking at my watch occasionally, wondering how far along we were.

If you make it a point to see it, be sure and take someone along. You're going to want to discuss it and dissect it whether you love it or hate it and, who knows, by the time you're done you may realize it has grown on you more than you would have imagined it could.


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  • Mr-Mercury

    I am really intrigues to see it now... Thanks.

  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    I took someone with me and they absolutely hated it... lol. But I suppose it is a polarizing piece. Not my fav Cronenberg film by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely one that warrants multiple views to really understand (or try to rather). Anyway, glad you enjoyed it. Maybe it just isn't my kind of film.

  • http://timeforafilm.com Alex Thomas

    Wow, wasn't expecting such a decent grade.

    As interesting and fascinating as the ideas were, the movie was simply too alienating for me. I will admit I barely discussed the ideas with anyone though, but I don't see why I should have to to enjoy the movie. Prometheus was a movie with heaps of ideas, but it was still enjoyable to watch and was a movie that you could simply choose to not explore the ideas and still be entertained. This movie simply bored me.

    This was also my first Croenberg film and to my knowledge the only people I know that liked it are a fan of his. Just something I picked up on. Good review Brad!

    • Susan

      That's a fair opinion, but not one I'd link myself with. A lot of the best films force you to enter the conversation and be an active viewer. Prometheus allows a passive viewing, which is fine, but Cronenberg's work tends to let its themes and ideas simmer under the surface and make you look at them as something more than their face value.

      That isn't for everyone, but it's something I find engaging when done well.

  • AS

    I'll never understand why people check their watch during movies. If you are so disinterested in the movie, why even go at all if you have so many more important things to do? I think it's just a symptom of this ADD culture.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      For me, a watch is an informational tool, it tells me the time. Knowing when the movie started I was able to use subtraction and determine how far into the movie I was. It has nothing to do with ADD, more important things or disinterest.

      Your comment is presented in a very strange, attack mode, judgmental manner. Odd.

      • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

        To be honest Brad, the way you phrase the use of your watch it in your review...

        'It's not at all accessible to general audiences looking for an easily digestible feature and as much as I respect it, even I was looking at my watch occasionally, wondering how far along we were'...

        Well, even I would believe based on that phrasing that it had to do with your disconnection to the content. Not that there's anything wrong with that though...

      • AS

        Someone's a little sensitive... My comment wasn't meant as an "attack." It just seems disrespectful to check your watch during a movie, that's all. And your reason for doing so only supports what I said. If you need to take the time to stop, look at your watch, and then deduce how much time is left in the movie, doesn't that suggest a certain level of disinterest? Or am I completely out of line here?

        • Winchester

          Well, the way I read your comment was the suggestion people should have pre-awareness of what will and won't interest them. Easier said than done.

          'If you are so disinterested in the movie, then why even go at all...............' doesn't appear to take account people can be interested in a film......until they start to see it and realise it isn't holding their attention. Which is how I end up checking my watch at times. Because the film is dull.

          Anyways, just an observation on how your choice of wording reads to a third party.

          • AS

            Yes, it's impossible to know if the actual film will be interesting. But the whole process of checking the watch seems a bit dramatic and pointless to me. I mean, are you planning on getting up and walking out of the movie if you still have 40 minutes or so left to go? Because if not, why even bother checking the time if you're not going anywhere? Do you see what I mean?

            Watching movies at home is a different story. If you're bored with a film and you still have a ways to go, you can always just pause the movie and come back at a later time. But if you're in the theater, there's no pause button so why bother checking the time? It's not like you can do anything about it.

        • AS

          *Could you*

    • charles

      Well, usually when people become bored by a movie, they start to fidget.

  • angel

    Pattinson goes toe to toe with Paul Giamatti and knocks it out of the park? Awesome! My theory that he had talent isn't crazy then. Good for him.

  • Mi

    Great review.But why nobody mentions that sex scene with Kendra was amazing?They did it in one take.Honestly,you as a man should say something about it.

    • Dan

      Are you saying the sex scene itself was amazing, it was amazing that it was accomplished in one take, or that it's amazing no one has mentioned it? Just a bit confused by the wording.

    • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

      I personally don't remember anything about the sex scene... at all. If I wanted Cronenberg sex scenes I'd visit Crash... or History... or Ringers... Or... Wow.

      • Dan

        Wow? I was just trying to understand what this person was saying. I don't come to Cronenberg for the sex scenes, but at least he tends to use them in a way that makes sense in the film, and not for superfluous reasons. I've seen all of his flicks except for Fast Company and this. I certainly anticipate both, and for different reasons.

  • Criterion10

    I was excited for this film from the beginning, but then the not so favorable reviews kind of made me less interested. I'm all in favor of making different types of films, and it seems that Cosmopolis is an attempt at that. Glad to see that you liked it, Brad. I'll definitely be seeing this when it plays closer to me.

  • carrie

    i saw the movie in France and it thought it was abstruse and pretentious but Pattinson is well-casted (his character is there without being "there")with his "empty" eyes
    Weirdly,i think the book was more accessible