Cosmopolis featured image

Cronenberg’s vision of a dystopian future matches that of DeLillo: Manhattan is truly an urban hell in Cosmopolis.

Reviewed by Marc Glassman

David Cronenberg, director and script based on the novel by Don DeLillo

Starring: Robert Pattinson (Eric Packer), Jay Baruchel (Shiner), Juliette Binoche (Didi, Eric’s art consultant), Samantha Morton (Vija, Eric’s main advisor), Sarah Gadon (Elise, Eric’s wife), Emily Hampshire (Jane, Eric’s chief of finance), Kevin Durand (Torval), Paul Giamatti (Benno Levin), Mathieu Amalric (Andre Petrescu), K’Naan (Bruno, rap artist), Patricia McKenzie (Kendra)

The buzz
Excitement began to build years ago when David Cronenberg signed on to adapt Don DeLillo’s eerily prescient 2003 novel about a privileged member of the elite traveling in his limousine through a traffic snarled Manhattan during an economic crisis. The hype reached a new peak when Twilight-teen star Robert Pattinson agreed to take the leading role of 1%er Eric Packer. Cosmopolis opened at Cannes to mixed reviews—some critics loved it but others were not moved by this latest Cronenberg foray into automobiles, angst and adultery.


The genres
Futuristic thriller; literary adaptation into cinema; auteur cinema; art film


The premise
Like James Joyce’s Ulysses, Cosmopolis tells the story of a man’s daylong journey through his city. Eric Packer’s Manhattan is a far cry from Stephen Dedalus’ Dublin but that may make it riper terrain for cinema.

In a white stretch limousine driven by his personal chauffeur, Packer travels through downtown New York surrounded by bodyguards led by the tough, gun-wielding Torval. Ostensibly in search of the perfect haircut, Packer insists that the limo drive through a massive traffic jam caused by a Presidential parade, a huge public rally of protestors and a funeral procession for a Sufi rap singer. As Packer’s car slowly, inexorably moves through Manhattan, the young mogul meets his entourage, one by one: Shiner, his computer nerd; Didi, his art consultant; Vija, his chief advisor and Jane, his chief advisor. They tend to his needs and concerns, financial, cultural and sexual.

Three times, Packer spots his new wife, Elise, who has not consented to have sex with him but is absurdly jealous about his relationships with other women. Throughout the journey, Eric faces threats—financially, from the fall of the Chinese Yuan, which he has been backing; socially, from his wife’s rejection; and physically, from the protestors, who attack his car and damage his limo, trying to get at him.

In the end, Packer finds his old neighbourhood barber and confronts the darkest threat to his life, from a nearly deranged former employee. Will he survive? Will the other members of the 1%?


The performances
With a cast filled with accomplished scene-stealers like Samantha Morton and Paul Giamatti, the key question is: can Robert Pattinson convince audiences as a leading man in a truly adult drama? It turns out that he can—though the role of Eric Packer, a conceited, alienated billionaire was hardly a stretch for him. But he does make it work.

Morton, Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Mathieu Amalric and Canadians Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel and Emily Hampshire offer brilliant ensemble support.

Next: The Direction

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