Blu-ray Review: Cosmopolis

STUDIO: Entertainment One | DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg | CAST: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche , Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti, Mathieu Amalric, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/1/2013 | PRICE: Blu-ray $29.98, DVD $24.98,
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes
SPECS: R | 109 min. | Drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Like M. Butterfly, Crash and Naked Lunch before it, David Cronenberg’s (A Dangerous Method) Cosmopolis is yet another film adaptation of a work that isn’t easily adapted, in this case Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel of the same name. And like those other films, Cronenberg’s latest drama is a cool albeit tough one that isn’t without its thematic, narrative and technical pleasures.

Taking a major stride away from the Twilight superstardom he gained over the past decade, Robert Pattinson stars as 28-year-old billionaire financier Eric Packer, who spends one loooooong day riding across the city in his luxurious, sound-proofed high-tech stretch limo so that he can get to his favorite barber for a haircut. That there’s heavy traffic in town that day is not problem, as Packer’s spacious wheels also serve as his office (and practically his home). Over the course of the day, a number of growingly strange and dangerous events unspool and Packer has a series of encounters with a host of people, all of which put Packer’s career and very life at risk.

Cosmopolis movie scene

Robert Pattinson lives by limo in Cosmopolis.

A kind of contemporary Odyssey or Huck Finn where the “hero” comes up against a series of  “adventures” in the way of idiosyncratic characters and strange encounters as he travels across his “world” (which looks like it’s meant to be Manhattan, though that’s never actually stated), Cosmopolis is a generally faithful film version of DeLillo’s book (save for its ending). Back in 2003, the author wrote about an angry public of citizens that we now refer to as “the one-percenters” and the near-revolution they bring to steps of their city’s ruling class, represented by the too-young, too-rich Eric Packer. That’s idea is captured accuratedly in Cronenberg’s take (he also wrote the screenplay), though the relative measured pace and dialogue-heavy episodic nature of the story makes it slow going for a time. A handful of Packer’s encounters play out with intrigue and energy—his tryst with a business-minded sexpot (Juliette Binoche, Elles) and his run-in with an anarchic artist (Mathieu Amalric, Wild Grass), for example—while others were enervating and made me a itchy, beginning with his handful of scenes opposite his wife of two weeks (Sarah Gadon, Dream House) and a lengthy climactic meeting with his potential murderer (Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version) in a run-down apartment.

But it all looks quite great, particularly in its Blu-ray adaptation. A careful lighting scheme smartly underlines the long day-into-night running time, just as it abets the fine camera work by Cronenberg’s longtime DP Peter Suschitzky and the art direction and production design of the interior of Packer’s limo, where a large part of the action takes place.

As for bonus features, Cosmopolis comes fully loaded. Cronenberg submits a commentary that’s entertaining, intellectual and quite concise, covering all things technical and thematic. On top of that, there’s a feature-length documentary on the making of the film, which contains interviews with virtually every member of the cast and crew and lots of additional comments from Cronenberg. For fans of the man, all of this material is indispensable, but lately I’m wishing that Cronenberg would take a step back from explaining his films and hit us over the head with one that harkens back to the old days when he didn’t need to talk about them so much. Am I the only one who wants to see Cronenberg make a return to his uniquely splatter-infused sci-fi and horror pictures of yesteryear, the last being 1999’s eXistenZ. Maybe just one more for old time’s sake?


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.