Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer
Juliette Binoche as Didi Fancher
Sarah Gadon as Elise Shifrin
Mathieu Amalric as Andre Petrescu
Jay Baruchel as Shiner
Kevin Durand as Torval
K’Naan as Brother Fez
Emily Hampshire as Jane Melman
Samantha Morton as Vija Kinsky
Paul Giamatti as Benno Levin
Philip Nozuka as Michael Chin
Abdul Ayoola as Ibrahim Hamadou
Milton Barnes as Videographer
Gouchy Boy as Kosmo Thomas
Maria Juan Garcias as Nina Brooks
Anna Hardwick as Jenn the Photographer
Zeljko Kecojevic as Danko
Patricia McKenzie as Kendra Hays
Directed by David Cronenberg
Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a young, wealthy futurist CEO at a major corporation spends the day driving through New York City in his limo trying to get to his barber for a haircut, encountering all sorts of colleagues, acquaintances and enemies along the way.
The name of Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel, adapted by David Cronenberg–his first screenplay in decades–gives off a sense of science fiction that may not necessarily be reflected in the film other than the fact it takes place sometime in the near future and has a bit of futuristic tech, but even with that, it feels like one of Cronenberg’s least ambitious and accomplished films.
The primary setting for the film is the inside of Eric Packer’s high-tech white stretch limo, a place where we’ll spend a lot of time as we meet the rich and powerful character. When we meet him, he’s wearing a suit and shades much like Mr. Smith from “The Matrix with Robert Pattinson coldly delivering the character’s thoughts on the state of the world in a similar deadpan monotone.
Fortunately the entire movie doesn’t take place in the back of Eric’s limo with bad green screen New York City streets passing in the background, but it may as well since it’s essentially a series of seemingly meaningless conversations between Pattinson and a spate of other actors who come in and out of the movie often so quickly you barely have a chance to register their relationship. Only a few characters make any sort of recurring appearance, Eric’s wife Elise (played by Sarah Gadon), a platonic marriage used to merge empires, and his ever-present Head of Security, played by Kevin Durand.
Delillo’s ability to turn a clever phrase is maintained within Cronenberg’s fairly faithful translation of the text and the relevance of Delillo’s nearly nine-year-old ideas to the current economy certainly seems like the most obvious factor for Cronenberg tackling the material. Much of this revolves around the idea of there being a new universal unit of currency called the “rat which explains the anarchists running around town with dead rats, something that makes comparisons to the Occupy Wall Street movement far too easy. The rebels finally get their hands on Eric’s limo and it’s covered in graffiti, but at the same time, Eric’s own wardrobe starts to get looser over the course of the film.
Not to completely knock Pattinson since he’s a relatively decent actor, but you couldn’t really tell it from the lifeless performance he gives throughout the movie, often just sitting silently and letting his co-stars do all the heavy lifting. The problem is that many of the other performances are just as lifeless and lacking of emotion as Pattinson’s with some of the standouts being Juliet Binoche and Samantha Morton, although in hindsight, it’s hard to even remember who they play.
The film finally shows its true merit when Paul Giamatti shows up as a crazed ex-employee who wants to kill Eric and we spend nearly 20 minutes with them having a tete a tete about their relationship. Giamatti’s performance is among his best and it’s the one time where it feels someone in the movie has stepped up their game to deliver something special and it’s surprising that an actor that can deliver performances this strong hasn’t already won an Oscar. The problem is that 80% of the movie is just plain dull and the few moments that shine can’t make up from the bland lifelessness of the rest of it.
The music by Metric and Howard Shore (who previously teamed up for “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ironically enough) is worthwhile when there is any, and there are a few moments of true Cronenbergisms–most notably Eric’s sexual encounters with every woman other than his wife–but neither does much to elevate the dull talking heads nature of the movie.
The Bottom Line
Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis could easily have been produced as a Tony-winning stageplay but as cinema, it never strives to achieve the heights of even the lowest of Cronenberg milestones.