Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) wants a haircut. Not any old haircut, but one from a barber across the city, and as Eric is one of the richest men around, what he wants he gets, so he enters his limousine and orders the driver to take him to his destination. He is warned by his bodyguard (Kevin Durand) that he would be better off visiting somewhere closer because the streets are due to be very busy today, but he will not be put off, and so begins a snail's pace journey across town, one which will have a great effect on Eric as he sees his life begin to crumble...
But that may not be such a bad thing, because as his existence in this near-hermetically sealed vehicle metaphorically illustrates, Eric has been apart from the world he has exploited for too long, and though he's still only twenty-eight he needs some kind of jolt of sensation to prevent him drying up like a husk and blowing away in the financial breeze. This was director David Cronenberg's adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel, and a less friendly, less accomodating to the audience effort you would be hard pressed to find: so dedicated to getting the dialogue off the page and into the mouths of the actors was he that he neglected anything that might have made for a conventional entertainment.
And yet, the sense that Cronenberg felt he was indeed being entertaining appeared to speak to an obliviousness about precisely how rarified he was coming across with his work here. With so little for the viewer to latch onto through those acres of talk, the film became genuinely claustrophobic, and actually in its odd fashion a success on its own terms as you began to perceive Eric's suffocation as a tangible sensation. The main problem being whether you actually wanted to spend time with such a cold, even obnoxious character when he may have been loosening up as the story progressed, but you had to admit this didn't make him any more engaging as he allowed his baser instincts to dominate.
The attraction of anarchy, or at least breaking rules, was for the sake of it on these terms as you never saw Eric as being liberated especially, merely swapping one form of nastiness for another. Now he has conquered his world, he simply makes further conquests by having sex with as many women as possible, at times in that limousine, though the girl he would really like to be with, new wife Elise (Sarah Gadon) is remote towards him, another source of frustration for a man not given to big emotional displays. That car doubles as home and office, so in one scene he can be discussing the future of the yen with advisors, the next he's having a prostate examination, and then after that he'll be trying to seduce another woman who has come into his orbit.
Pattinson was evidently trying to shake off his Twilight heartthrob image by taking a challenging role, and you couldn't imagine anything more challenging than this, though maybe more to his fans than to the star. Various other famous faces, and some not so famous, drift though the movie, though they still had to chew over that dense dialogue, transcribed from the novel, so by the time you'd recognised who they were or where you'd seen them before they would be a good few sentences into some intellectual speech, leaving a film that begged for more than one viewing to latch onto its depth of meaning. That's if you were not turned off completely by the end of the story, or ten minutes in for that matter, as the themes of the global banking crisis were approached in such abstract terms - the city is never identified, the protestors want rats to replace currency, basically everything is circling Eric's sphere of consciousness until he deigns to connect - that it wouldn't be wrong to describe Cosmopolis as science fiction. Music by Howard Shore.
Highly regarded Canadian writer/director who frequently combines intellectual concerns with genre subjects. Began directing in the late-70s with a series of gruesome but socially aware horror thrillers, such as Shivers, Rabid and The Brood. 1981's Scanners was Cronenberg's commercial breakthrough, and if the hallucinatory Videodrome was box office flop, it remains one of the finest films of his career. The sombre Stephen King adaptation The Dead Zone and the hugely successful remake of The Fly followed.
The disturbing Dead Ringers (1988) was a watershed film, based for the first time entirely in reality and featuring a career-best performance from Jeremy Irons. The 1990s saw Cronenberg in uncompromising form, adapting a pair of "unfilmable" modern classics - Burrough's Naked Lunch and Ballard's Crash - in typically idiosyncratic style. M. Butterfly was something of a misfire, but eXistenZ surprised many by being fast-moving and funny, while 2002's powerful Spider saw Cronenberg at his most art-house.