For most of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, we’re inside a white stretch limousine, which Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager, is taking across Manhattan to get a haircut. Every so often he leaves the car to grab a bite in an upscale coffee shop, but mostly, seated in his luxe chamber, he hectors an underling (Jay Baruchel), has sex with his mistress (Juliette Binoche), and holds court on the brave new world of cybercapitalism. Eric, talking and talking, possesses the robotic assurance of a man who transcends mere human relationships through power. Yet I’m not sure if you could describe the thoughts that tumble out of his mouth as “dialogue.” Cosmopolis was adapted from a 2003 novel by Don DeLillo, and though the book was ahead of the curve, the film comes off as an elaborately didactic and overheated lecture.
Pale and predatory, Pattinson delivers his frigid pensées with rhythmic confidence, but he’s not playing a character, he’s playing an abstraction: the evil genius of finance who flies too close to the sun. After a while Eric finally meets a force he can’t control — the man who may be trying to kill him, played by Paul Giamatti with the only semblance of spontaneity in the movie. But who cares what happens? Cronenberg has already killed off his protagonist. Or at least he has snuffed out any shred of interior life in him. C