There can come a point when a film tries to deliver too many messages and pack too large an agenda in to the dialogue that it becomes so utterly mundane and worthless that it negates anything it is trying to achieve, making the whole thing indecipherable. Cosmopolis, the newest feature from David Cronenberg, is guilty of this and what starts off as a promising thrill ride slowly devolves into an energy sapping, tiresome film which takes more effort to watch than should ever be needed by any film.
The main gist of the story concerns 28 year old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), who for the majority of the film is travelling across town in the back of his stretch limo. His purpose of the journey, he repeatedly informs other, is to have a hair cut. Over the course of the journey Packer has multiple quick flowing, jargon filled conversations with business advisers discussing theoretical issues, the economic climate, and his own fiscal irresponsibility. Although we are not made aware of how exactly Packer has made his billions, there are multiple references to how he is involved in the stock market and how his risk taking is on the verge of leaving him penniless.
One of the main problems with the film is the insistence on talking in riddles and almost nothing being given in a literal meaning. Packer is obviously an important financial figure and a somewhat mathematical and theoretical genius; a person for who death threats are made against and whose commute across the city is only carried on in accompaniment with what seems like a vast security team. But the detached nature of the whole picture and Packer himself makes everything disjointed and baffling.
There are points within the story where it can be reasonably ascertained what ulterior points are being made; how the expectance and pressures in western society to marry results in nothing more than unsustainable relationships, where love is falsely represented by the lust for sex. And how it is fashionable for death to be glorified, and in a world where people get so engrossed with the almost voyeuristic news reports of murders and executions that it is almost disappointing and unfulfilling when someone does from natural causes.
Whether these two points were the intended meaning of screen writer David Cronenberg is difficult to say. But the multiple other points regarding anti capitalism, greed and selfishness, which the film is trying to proclaim, get mushed with its indecipherable use of vocabulary and abject and ambiguous conversation. The acting is weak, and I can’t make a decision on whether Robert Pattinson is severely limited in his capabilities or whether he was chosen for the role to give the same emotionless, distanced and sullen characteristics as he shows in the Twilight films. Either way, Pattinson is bland and uninteresting and doesn’t do much to help the film.
The visuals of the film and cinematography do nothing to detract away from the laborious task of making your way to the end. In the few scenes which are actually shot from outside the limo, the characters, particularly their emotional state, constantly remain the focal point on screen. Seeing as there is only one tone and mood to the film and a never wilting indifference to Packer, it all seems quite dejected. There is also a glossiness and almost sterile feel to the film, which lacks any kind of heightened atmosphere. Simply put, there’s no spark or energy here, the film lacks a pulse.
Walking out of the screening and discussing the film in its entirety, performances and intentions, everyone I spoke to showed the same expression of bafflement and confusion. With Robert Pattinson’s name attached, the film could still do respectively at the cinema, but without it, Cosmopolis would be nothing more than an agenda ridden project which ultimately results in no notable achievement.