With an economic recession on the mind, and the violent impacts of that lingering throughout Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg, once again, tries his hand at adapting a unique text. Don DeLillo has a unique style to his prose. That’s the nicest way of saying it certainly isn’t for me. A few pages into the book, and it is clear to see Cronenberg has done quite the job of hacking his way through the text and making sure the transfer to screen is as seamless as possible. Capturing the core assets and meanings DeLillo had to offer, Cronenberg paves the way to effective character destruction. Too bad, then, that the destruction of his character is something we are actively cheering for, rather than making notes about.
As the life of Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) crumbles and fades away, Cosmopolis makes the obvious trajectory of his life a parallel to the other side of life. He falls from grace, the riots around him grow louder and larger. A nice and obvious parallel to make for the series of events that lead to Packer having such a manic, versatile reaction to all the imperfections of life. He is not likeable, but neither are the people around him. Those he converses with about his troubles or worries are just as dense and self-interested as he is. That may be the point of it all, but Cronenberg doesn’t display anyone without a clunky movement here or a fascinatingly poor bit of dialogue there. It is a car crash of responses and thoughts to the idea of self-destruction. That could not come sooner.
Allegorical woes are in the way here. They do not bleed into the script or make their presence known with any heart or interest. What Pattinson can bring to the table is minimal. He has the weird, pasty-faced, black-suited aura to him, and it comes across as a man out of touch with the working man. Cronenberg is out of touch with his audience, though. A bizarre concept, doubtlessly crafted as criticism for something somewhere, but while the clarity of message is not the issue, the reasoning behind it is. It is not a cold film, just disjointed and in freefall. Its dialogue leaves much to be desired, a derivative attempt at bringing out the cold, calculating side of a group of people who are eventually pushed to the darkest dreams they hold, for no good reason.
Had the subject matter been an ounce more interesting, that would still not change the ineffective scope Cronenberg presents here. With a sickening, glossy sheen to his camera and utilisation of plain weird shot composition and effects, Cosmopolis is a film that feels and looks ineffective. It wishes to detail the downfall of the mighty, and it does so, but with limited effect. What it can bring though is a decent performance from Pattinson, who is at least revelling in the comfort of a leading role removed from the Twilight craze. As the modern mystic vents his bleak and aimless frustrations at the world, he is capped close to the ground through dialogue that churns its way through as faux philosophical hand-wringing. At least we’re inside the limo, rather than on the violent streets around it.