Running time: 109 mins
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti
Twenty-eight year old billionaire Eric Packer is riding across
Manhattan on the day of a
Presidential visit and an economic collapse that’s threatening to tear the
world apart. His goal…to get a haircut.
David Cronenberg has long been one of my favourite directors. He makes not only interesting and challenging cinema but also interesting and challenging choices. One of the biggest in recent years is the casting of the centre of the screaming-girl-universe Robert Pattinson (Twilight) as the central character in his adaptation of Don DeLillo’s dot-com novel Cosmopolis and though it’s an excellent piece of casting in that it’s reinvigorated the director for a new generation (much like the DiCaprio/Scorsese love-in) and has offered the glittery vampire a chance of cinematic respectability it's not without issue.
The film has some lovely touches; Cronenberg’s use of camera outside the limo but predominantly inside is quite remarkable. His ability to shoot enclosed sequences and never have two shots that feel the same is an astonishing talent. One sequence in particular merits praise as the limo inches through the advancing mob while the camera slowly tracks back and zooming in. It manages to elongate the interior of the vehicle and create something of an abyss within the limo that creates tension within the audience…this is unfortunately the only tension in the film (unless you’re meant to be catching a bus shortly after the screening is due to end).
The acting within the film is something of a misfiring shell. Director Cronenberg has clearly asked of his cast a dislocated Brechtian technique which when done badly looks like 'Acting 101' and at best can be incredibly clever with the right material. This is the former. Pattinson is still young; he’s at the beginning of his career and put simply does not have the acting chops for this type of presentation and though he has moments that are rather interesting for the most part the narrative (which as lead he drives) flatlines for 109 minutes. Kevin Durand (as Torval the bodyguard) and Paul Giamatti (Benno Levin) are interesting, certainly the most interesting things in the film but are let down by how little there is to work with and how little we all care upon witnessing it. Juliette Binoche is wasted – this is a crime that should demand stiff sentences as she is wonderful, add to that the crime of the misuse of Morton (Samantha Morton) and under Californian law there’s one last misdemeanour before a life sentence is issued.
The story is (potentially) interesting but not given a chance and is hampered by how intelligent the film thinks it is, not to mention the fact that is seriously hampered by the marriage storyline which is needless. Don DeLillo’s novel is apparently a re-interpretation of James Joyce’s Ulysses – something I found interesting though mainly because I didn’t see how it was a re-interpretation of Ulysses as it came across more like a poor man…a bankrupt man’s Endgame. I was fortunate enough to have watched this with a Doctor in Irish Theatre so I asked them if they thought it was a re-interpretation of Ulysses, their response “Umm no. Not even a little bit”.
The most exciting thing about Cosmopolis has nothing to do with the film; it’s the potential of a future partnership that might bring this decade a Cronenberg/Pattinson Videodrome, or The Fly, or Spider, or A History of Violence. When that film arrives we might be able to look back at Cosmopolis and say “that’s where it began” and perhaps look upon it fondly as Day Zero in a new vision of Independent cinema rather than the yawning indifference or angry frustration you’ll have when you sit for 109 minutes for no reason whatsoever.