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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Cosmopolis (review)

Cosmopolis yellow light Robert Pattinson

I’m “biast” (pro): have long held a sneaking suspicion that Pattinson is a pretty good actor; generally like Cronenberg’s films

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

A master of the universe — young, very rich, and very very arrogant — holds court in his stretch limo. That’s Cosmopolis, that’s Eric Packer’s world, and Packer is, by all measures, very happy here. Well, for extremely constrained values of happy, to be sure — he appears to take little pleasure in the sorts of things that the rest of us find good fun, like sex with the likes of Juliette Binoche — but that, I think, is kinda that point of screenwriter-director David Cronenberg’s visit to Packer’s world.


Honestly, I’m not sure what Cronenberg’s (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence) point is. Or maybe I’m not sure what novelist Don DeLillo’s point is, for this is based on his book [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.]. Is it the idea that someone like Eric Packer, for whom moving millions of dollars around the globe is like playing a game of chess, simply isn’t capable of human pleasure, and this is why we should fear him, because he is alien? I’m not sure that’s entirely helpful.

At least there is, for the viewer, pleasure to be found in the arty movieness, like in Robert Pattinson’s (Bel Ami, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1) performance as Packer: the actor — who has been severely underappreciated, though mostly because of his own bad choices — brings a slick, knowing roboticness to a man desperate to maintain a pretense of control and command of the world around him. In the hands of Pattinson and Cronenberg, Packer becomes a sort of 21st-century object lesson, if one we peons cannot thwart, about assuming that wealth is power… though, again, while Packer may find himself backed into a corner by film’s end, there’s little consolation or even explication for we mere mortals to cling to. Packer may use a gloss of science to justify his psychotic awfulness, the detachment that allows him to ignore the very real crises of the world literally outside his limo, but… so what?

It’s grimly fun to see Cronenberg’s pseudo science-fictional sheen cast Packer as something akin to one of the machines that runs the Matrix — and of all the Packer peons who come and go from the limo, most captivating is Samantha Morton, as Packer’s “chief of theory,” enacting a sort of parody of her Minority Report precog and applying it to international finance. But still we’re left with a frustrating sense that Croneberg doesn’t quite know what to do with the inscrutable young man with whom he has inculcated in us a deliberately false sense of intimacy.

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Cosmopolis (2012)
US/Can release: Aug 17 2012
UK/Ire release: Jun 15 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated HFWTF for graphic depictions of high-finance WTFery
MPAA: rated R for some strong sexual content including graphic nudity, violence and language
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong sex and language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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