David Cronenberg’s films have displayed such a hardnosed consistency over so long a time, that it is remarkable how rarely his movies project any sense of repetitiveness. And though there is a definite Cronenberg “feel” to his films, he has never made an excessive commitment to a particular look. This, perhaps, may be due to his choice of perennial collaborators – composer Howard Shore, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, editor Ronald Sanders, costume designer Denise Cronenberg – who operate at such a high creative level themselves that they are as loathe to settle for artistic reflex as he is.
Cosmopolis, an adaptation of a Don DeLillo novel, travels along with, Eric Packer, a 28-year-old multi-millionaire (perhaps even billionaire) who hectors his reluctant bodyguard into driving him across town during a traffic crisis, all because he wants a haircut at one particular barbershop. Along the way, he’s visited in his stretch limo by various business associates and friends. The initial encounters are all about money and business, with Parker playing the stoic, impervious master of the universe to even younger partners who are coming unglued due to unforeseen disruptions in their investments. But the visitors become increasingly centered on personal issues (one lover even coaxes Parker out of the car) and Packer becomes increasingly unkempt and disturbed as the journey plays out. Finally, both business and personal clash and erupt in the movie’s violent climax.
Packer is a quintessential Cronenberg hero/anti-hero, a group which would be at home in a Greek tragedy. Typically, Packer has attempted self-integration through the mastery of an external process. In this case, the process is an algorithm that, working at blinding speed, allows him and his cohorts to anticipate, stay ahead of, and massively profit from stock market fluctuations. But underneath this pillar of his mastery, chaos has begun to intrude. The algorithm is working too quickly to take advantage of, and any attempt to do so is ending up in catastrophic losses.
As Packer drives cross town, strips off his sunglasses, jacket, and such, he becomes desperate as he realizes that chaos is an irrefutably basic condition of life, so much so that it even inhabits logic. And as life aro0und him morphs into something beyond his control, so does his body, his self. He is the same, but he is different. He is sold, but he is liquid.
As you might expect, Cronenberg shoots the limo interior as if it were the interior of a bulletproof carapace; almost and director would. What’s significant is the way Cronenberg shoots that inside, trading lenses and set-ups to chart the rapidly shifting tides pulling at Packer. Indeed, all the movie’s interiors are as plastic as the characters, with the décor both suggesting and commenting on the characters’ internal states.
This is filmmaking of an exceptionally high order.
The cast is fine, except for Robert Pattinson, who has no suggestive powers. On the other hand, Kevin Durand as the bodyguard is excellent, projecting rich certainty and piercing doubt simultaneously .