An interesting and very timely movie from director David Cronenberg (who also wrote the script), 2012's Cosmopolis, based on the book of the same name by author Don DeLillo, takes place in a world where the financial markets have started to crumble. Here we meet Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a bit of a wunderkind in the world of high finance who, armed with the assumption that the Chinese markets will soon fall, makes some appropriate investment decisions to cash in on this. Unfortunately for Eric, his instincts prove wrong and he takes a not insignificant financial hit.
All of this occurs while Eric is being driven across Manhattan in his custom limousine. See, he wants to get a haircut and while there are two barbershops nearby, the one he wants to go to is across town. The fact that the President is visiting means that traffic is jammed up completely but he doesn't let this stop him. Packer's security guard, Torval (Kevin Durand), accompanies him by walking outside the car and keeping an eye on things. Given that the car moves so slowly across town, as the movie plays out we witness Eric's interactions with a few different characters, the first of whom is a forty-one year old woman named Didi Fancher (Juliette Binoche) who screws him in his car and then talks about business with him. From there we meet Eric's beautiful young wife, Elise (Sarah Gadon), who is obviously not in the least bit interested in being married to this man, among others. As Eric gets closer to the barber shop, he meets Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), a strange man with a link to his past and Eric's situation becomes increasingly complicated.
Cosmopolis starts off as a bit of an endurance test. Pattinson's character is incredibly distanced, bored with life for the most part and interested in very little outside of getting laid and the concept of death and while sex may start off as his focal point, death will eventually take center stage. With a large majority of the movie set inside Packer's stretch limo, a massive car he's had soundproofed and in which he's had the latest technology installed, the movie seems stagey at first, little more than a series of conversations between a brilliant but jaded young man and some of his affiliates. In fact, the movie is probably more dialogue intensive than anything Cronenberg has been attached to thus far in his storied career.
Yet as the outside world changes around him, so too does Packer. As he starts to succumb to the need to feel something, the movie's pacing starts to become a little more fluid and that string of conversations and monologues that made up the first two thirds of the movie comes together and starts to mean something more. Pattinson plays this part well. His Eric is distant, very removed from what most of us would consider the normal world. Much of this has to do with his success, the fact that he's only in his late twenties and has more money than most of us could even really ever dream of. He doesn't need to care about the people around him because he can afford not to, so it almost makes sense that he'd be as flat and monotone as he is here. He's bored. The supporting efforts from the likes of Binoche and Giamatti are solid, while Gadon also offers up an interesting take on a character who is essentially Packer's female counterpart, more interested in hiding in the bookstore than in making love to her husband; he wants her physically, she's not interested, instead noting that he smells of sex, well aware of his promiscuity and yet seemingly completely unphased by it.
Definitely not a movie for all tastes, there's a lot to take in here. While yes, most of the movie is made up of long stretches of dialogue and very little action, it's important to note that the dialogue means something. There are layers to this film that require multiple viewings. The social commentary, the observations not only about the state of political unrest and the increasing division between the rich and the poor but also on our increasing obsession with technology and access to instant information - it all works and it's occasionally terrifying.
Cosmopolis arrives on Blu-ray in an excellent AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. Shot digitally it should therefore come as no surprise to note that the picture is completely free or dirt, damage or debris but what really impresses here is the level of depth and detail in the picture. Black levels look excellent and not at the cost of shadow detail and there are no issues with crush here nor are there any obvious compression artifacts. Colors are reproduced very nicely and look lifelike and accurate as do skin tones. There are no problems with any heavy filtering or noise reduction with only occasional and very mild shimmering popping up here and there. All in all, the movie looks excellent on Blu-ray.
Also quite impressive is the English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. This isn't the most action intensive movie so surround activity is more often than not fairly subtle but no less effective for it. Given that the limo is lined with cork to eliminate as much road noise as possible, it makes sense that the film's sound design would be subdued. Dialogue is properly balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The score sounds good and is spread throughout the mix quite nicely and there's quite a bit of noticeable depth to all of this. Everything here sounds very clean, clear and concise.
Extras kick off with an audio commentary from director David Cronenberg. While his delivery is a little on the dry side, he's able to explain what drew him to this project, his thoughts on the book, some of the deeper meanings of the film and what it was like collaborating with the various cast and crew members he assembled for this particular project. He notes that he adapted as much of the book in as literal a style as possible and discusses the casting choices, the style of shooting employed in this movie and quite a bit more.
Additionally, there's also a feature length documentary on the disc entitled Citizens Of Cosmopolis which runs just under two hours in length. Cronenberg and many of the other cast and crew members are interviewed here and there's some insight into the voyage that the story has made from Don DeLillo's novel to the movie that we have here. It's a pretty interesting and remarkably thorough piece and it compliments both the feature and the added commentary very nicely. On top of that we get almost a half an hour's worth of interviews with Cronenberg, Paulo Branco, Martin Katz, Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand, Jay Baruchel, Juliette Binoche, Emily Hampshire, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti and a few others. While some of the material here is recycled in the documentary, there's enough exclusive content to make these worth checking out if you enjoyed the feature. Also included is a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. All of the extras on the disc are presented in high definition.
Cosmopolis is not David Cronenberg's best film but it is one of his better more recent entries in his filmography. It can occasionally overwhelm and it's a film that needs to be thought about and probably to be seen more than once to really and truly appreciate, but that's not necessarily a flaw. Not only is the film remarkably well made on a technical level but it's intelligent and thought provoking as well. The Blu-ray release of the picture looks and sounds excellent and contains some terrific supplements as well. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.