28 year old billionaire Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a cross-town journey to get a haircut. On the way, he encounters many people, including his wife and colleagues, as he travels in his limo, but a "credible threat" to his life and a deliberate loss of billions of dollars mean Packer is soon re-evaluating and questioning a lot of things in his life.
I can't really give you a lot more plot than that, because it would spoil the film, but it's one hell of a surreal movie to watch.
I've heard a few people complaining about the fact they "didn't get it"and walked out, but in my honest poinion I think that they just didn't give it enough of a chance, or focus enough. It's challenging, especially with the amount of dialogue and the not-so-coherent plot. I don't think it matters if people don't understand it - Robert Pattinson and David Cronenberg have been very open about the fact that they don't really get it. Also, it's Cronenberg, people! He makes strange films and I don't know why people are surprised that this was weird. I didn't see A Dangerous Method, but I've heard that comparitively Cosmopolis is much more his style, not to mention a lot better than A Dangerous Method, which received very lukewarm reviews.
Dialogue is a major aspect of the film, and every word out of the actors' mouths sound like poetry. A lot of people who have seen it have said that the dialogue was nearly incomprehensable, and I kind of see why they would say that - it's very dense, and admittedly there is a lot of it, so if concentrating on speech isn't your cup of tea then this maybe isn't a film you will enjoy very much. I seem to be the only person in my screen who followed it, which probably meant that I didn't get the film at all. But hey ho, I still absolutely loved it; it's so different to what I've come to expect in modern cinema - it feels like a film made for intellects, and not for general wide audiences. Yes, that sounds pretentious and elitist, which to some extent the film in general is, but those who get it will really appreciate it, and it's challenging, which is refreshing. Every sentence is carefully structured so it doesn't really sound like normal speech, it's far more stylised. But this synthetic way of talking only heightens the audience's awareness that nothing is natural, yet at the same time beautiful, just like the dialogue itself. But don't miss the humour. There's a lot of it; it's dark but it's there. I think people missed some of it because of the complexity of the vocabulary and the strangeness of the film, but it's something that should be appreciated about the film. (I apologise for all this analysis - I feel like I'm writing an essay - but these are all the thoughts I had whilst watching it. It's probably something to do with the way an English student's mind works.)
Every member of the cast is brilliant. What has annoyed me a great deal in both my excitement in the build up and the reverence post-viewing is how everyone assumes I'm being biased, but genuinely, Robert Pattinson was brilliant. He's in every scene, which is unusual for a leading actor in films right now, but the charisma he gives off proves he was a fine choice in casting. As Packer, he fantastically pulls off the mean feat of appearing to be cool and aloof to every aspect of his life, but also carefully calculating and energetic under the surface. There are a lot of subtle nuances that may go unnoticed to some people, but they are the difference between looking wooden half the time and actually producing an excellent display of acting ability. The few times he shows strong emotion are actually a bit of a shock, because it's such a contrast to how he is for most of the film, aside from the end where he is clearly full of joy and excitement at having his life threatened. I'm not even joking. From casual twitches to sweeping changes in facial expression, and, later in the film, frenetic energy and carefully placed body movement mean that he totally owns and carries the film. I hope that after seeing this people will stop judging Robert Pattinson solely on his appearances in Twilight, and accept that he actually is not only a very capable actor, but one who has the potential to be brilliant. This is definitely his best performance in a film so far, and I know a lot of you haters will be thinking, "Well, that's not hard," but actually just give him a chance. If people would stop hating and judging him so harshly only because of the franchise that made him famous, they would be able to see that he actually is a very talented actor. And get used to it, because after seeing this I'm thinking he's going to be around for a long time. David Cronenberg clearly thinks so, since he's reportedly cast him in a couple of his upcoming projects and publicly stated how much he enjoyed working with him - Pattinson is basically the next Viggo Mortensen, and that is by no means a bad thing. I spy the beginning of a beautiful partnership.
As brilliant as I think Pattinson is in this, he doesn't overshadow the other big names in the film. Samantha Morton was a stand-out for me, I'd like to see her in more things, and the banter between her and Pattinson was endlessly watchable. Sarah Gadon, playing Pattinson's detached wife, was another highlight for me, and I predict good things for her in the future. Again, their conversations were wonderful to watch, and their chemistry was great; they were both very convincing in their roles together. There were others like Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Amalric who were just glorified cameos, but that's not to take away from their performances: every single person who appeared in the film for more than 0.3 seconds contributed to it, and it's one of my favourite ensemble casts in recent times, if you can even call it that considering there are only about three or four characters who appear for more than ten minutes in total. All of the different actors, no matter how brief their appearance, made an impact and had the chance to shine.
I need to give a special mention to Paul Giamatti, who was absolutely superb. I've written about his other work before, and after seeing this I respect him even more as an actor - I think he's seriously underrated and he needs to be in more films, and more people need to be aware of his amazing talent. He and Pattinson are excellent together; they have such a rapport and the last 15 minutes with their one-on-one interaction is definitely the most engaging, helped obviously by the fact that it's the climax of the film and it builds to a massive crescendo. They bounce off each other flawlessly, and watching it, it's even more inconceivable that it was done in only a couple of takes, because that just proves how outstanding they both are in this scene. I shall be watching this scene on repeat a lot when I finally get the dvd.
Considering the novel on which it was based was written twelve years ago, it's quite eerie how well this film reflects modern times, even mirroring one real-life event. During promotion for this, Cronenberg said how one particular pie-throwing scene was filmed around the same time as Rupert Murdoch's pie-in-the-face incident, which was quite amusing. But really, it says a lot that a novel written a relatively long time ago can comment so accurately on our society today. It's a film that asks more questions than it answers, which I understand may annoy people, but it makes a lot of statements about the world we live in and the consumerist lifestyles we lead.
One particular aspect of the film I liked was the fact that 90% of the film took place inside Eric's limo. It made the film very claustrophobic in an almost neo-noir kind of way, and heightened the intensity of what was going on, but also it separated the philosophical conversations going on in the limo with Eric and his various escorts with the chaos and destruction that was going on outside, in society. It also added to how surreal the film was, as the rare times when Eric left his car during the film felt strange, that he didn't belong in society, like some kind of demigod. The film is full of contrasts, and asymmetry especially, and the set of the limo is so effective in bringing out these themes and intensifying the action and dialogue.
I don't write a lot of reviews without mentioning the score, one of my favourite pieces of any film usually, and this is no different. As I write this I'm listening to Howard Shore's (who has worked on every Cronenberg movie for the last thirty years) composition, which I downloaded as soon as I got in from seeing the film. (You should all know by now I have no actual technical knowledge of film scores, I just comment on the way they reflect the film and what they add to it.) It's eerie in a lot of ways, and also succeeds in building up tension, but in a very subtle way. It's obviously synthetic as well, not so much in the way a lot of 80s sci-fis were, but in a way that is clearly reflecting on the film's theme of non-naturalism and the way we live in the electronic era. I really enjoy it; I have some of Shore's other work, but this is among my favourite of his, and one of my favourites of the year so far.
Verdict: This is a film you will either love or hate, and I get that. Personally, I loved it. I think people judged it badly because of the complex dialogue and surreal plot, and didn't give it enough of a chance. But there's a reason it was selected at Cannes this year; people who are disbelieving of Robert Pattinson's acting ability must watch this, and Cronenberg has a fine return to form. I could not recommend this more, but this really is a film for the adventurous movie-goers out there.
Trailer: If I can be bothered, I usually only post one trailer. However, for this, you need to see both. The first 30-second teaser one actually took my breath away the first time I saw it, but I watch the second one occasionally even after seeing the film just to remind myself how much I loved it. But I probably wouldn't watch it if I had epilepsy, just so you know.
And just another fun fact for you: they filmed every scene in the limo almost in chronological order, which is almost unheard of nowadays.