David Cronenberg has been synonymous with horror for decades, from films like "Rabid", "The Fly" and "Videodrome", and recently has been putting out more cerebral fare like "Eastern Promises" and last year's "A Dangerous Method". "Cosmopolis" is like the best of both Cronenberg worlds: a claustrophobic, uncomfortable look inside the social hierarchy of America today, and one man's personal and financial downfall.
The bulk of the film takes place within the stretch limousine owned by 28 year old Wall Street tycoon Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), as he makes his way across the city to get a haircut. Along the way, he meets twice with his new wife of 22 days, has sex with his mistress, gets a proctology exam, and finds out that his fortune is being whittled away in the stock market, losing millions by the minute. The limo is mostly stuck in traffic jams caused throughout the city by a visit from the President of the United States, the funeral procession for a famous hip-hop star, and anti-capitalist rioters.
Packer speaks to everyone with the most calm, monotonous voice, as if he doesn't have a care in the world; not for his wife, not for his dwindling fortune. He seems bored by it all, like he would rather it all end then keep on living the way he is. Being unfamiliar with the book by Don DeLillo, I likened this attitude to the works of Bret Easton Ellis. He often deals with similar themes, of the ultra-rich being bored with their place in the caste system.
The film is dry, yet never boring. It's definitely a shock to the system for all of the "Twilight" fans who sought out the film with the sole purpose of following the career of their beloved Edward Cullen. Pattinson's acting style here is similar, yet the role couldn't be more different. Just browsing the check-ins on the social website GetGlue will show all of the various girls who have watched the movie for Pattinson, and subsequently turned it off, or view it as "the worst movie ever" because it is so different. Casting Pattinson in this role may be the best marketing that the film could ever receive.
We follow Packer so intimately on this one day in his limo that the climax involving a disgruntled former employee (Paul Giamatti) becomes nail-bitingly intense and very violent. By this time, all hope is lost for Packer. The ending is ambiguous in a "Lady or the Tiger" kind of way, and I certainly have my own opinions as to what happened after the camera stopped rolling.
"Cosmopolis" is definitely not an easy film to sit through, with its candid close-ups and nonchalant attitude about the social classes, but it's a painfully accurate depiction. The film is incredibly well shot, well acted, and well written, and deserves to be seen. Just once is enough though.
"Cosmopolis" was released on blu-ray on January 1, and the transfer is gorgeous. The blu-ray includes a commentary by David Cronenberg and an extensive making of documentary that is worth checking out.