Don DeLillo may have written the source material but this is director David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. The plot follows a 28 year old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) as he sits in his fortified limousine insisting that he be taken across the (unnamed) city to get a haircut. Starting his day with perfectly groomed hair, tailored black suit and sun glasses Packer’s limousine acts as his mobile office with a cast of characters either brought into the limousine or Packer making short ventures out into the city to see them. His day is informed by the gigantic currency bet he and his staff are pursuing while his security office updates him on the legitimate threat on Packer’s life along with the mounting traffic due to the US President being in town and anarchist demonstrations.
Cosmopolis is intensely cerebral and dialogue heavy. All visitors to Packer’s limousine offer greater insight into the mindset of a man who begins the film using the ‘royal we’ as his mobile office resembles more the inner workings of Packer’s mind than just being his car. His younger employees are clearly wary about answering Packer’s questions knowing that most replies would disappoint the intelligence and create distain in their slightly older boss. Each visit Packer receives proves to be episodic.
Juliette Binoche appears as Didi in a short but memorable appearance as Packer’s art dealer, mentor and lover. Samantha Morton is Packer’s theoretical advisor and it is with Morton’s Vija that Packer seems the most relaxed. Safe within his limousine fortress and buffeted by his billions, Packer and his staff can sit comfortably while having the luxury of discussing monetary theory while being rocked externally by the building social unrest that surrounds the car. One such conversation debates the merit of having rats become a new currency and the amusing implications of such a currency actually rising a smile across the more usually sneering face of Packer.
Though master within the confines of his financial world and car, Packer does make sudden impetuous excursions out into the city. Coolly accepting or ignoring the advice of his security officer Torval (Kevin Durand) Packer happens upon his new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon). Though not wanting for sexual partners during his day, Eric is direct and intent on his desire to have sex with his wife. She never visits Eric and he himself barely seems present when he leaves the cerebral world of his car to engage in the ordinary pursuits of meals and attempts at relaxed conversation.
During Eric’s daily medical examinations the concept of asymmetry is introduced in a scene that changes in tone in quite a remarkable fashion. The controlled intellectual world and the earthed bodily world come together to strip away Eric’s monetary cushioned existence as he begins to enjoy having less and less to lose. The significance of the eventual asymmetrical haircut becomes known as Packer moves towards the source of the death threats made against him and to engage in the danger of them. The world outside of the limousine is that of the emotional; the flesh and bone reality, and is another element to Eric’s desire perhaps to connect with the world outside of himself.
Cosmopolis is a clear dystopia and in tone and art direction comparable to Ridley Scott’s neon-noir master work Blade Runner. None of the characters are made sympathetic Paul Giamatti’s Benno, who sits in antithesis to Pattinson’s Eric. Replacing Colin Farrell as Eric, Robert Pattinson could be said to have the made the sort of career move that brought Brad Pitt away from purely romantic lead territory such as Legends of the Fall and into more interesting territory with the likes of 12 Monkeys and Seven.
Pattinson has made a very conscious choice to direct his acting career away from the Twilight franchise and squarely in that of renowned directors and more complicated material. He pulls this off to great effect as the film leaves its leading man nowhere to hide in regards to his acting ability and screen presence. With unabashed sexual scenes, welding a handgun and one character confirming his actual real eye colour, this is Robert Pattinson’s acting manifesto and it builds on the promise he has shown with characters not given the same range as found in Eric Packer.
Cosmopolis is not going to be for everyone. It is not a relaxing Friday night movie and does have a tendency to lag by the beginning of the third act, though does redeem itself in the final scenes. When the Cronenbergian violence does come it’s a relief, if not an antidote, to all the intricate multi-layered conversations that have preceded it. Love it or hate it, Cosmopolis is going to create a reaction and likely a source of many university film studies papers.
UK Release Date: 15th June