The title “Cosmopolis” suggests an entire world contained within a city; the movie “Cosmopolis” is an entire life story contained within a car.
The vehicle is a security-fortified stretch limousine owned by a young tycoon named Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson). At 28, Packer is one of the richest people on the planet, a brilliant currency trader who can topple empires with a wave of his hand. But he can't stop traffic, so when the president of the United States visits Manhattan on a day when Packer wants to get a haircut, the billionaire boy wonder is grounded. He can't simply walk, because his security chief (scene-stealing lug Kevin Durand) has intercepted some credible threats against Packer's life. So he has to conduct his business from the back seat of the limo.
In the course of one day, he is visited by lackeys and lovers alike, from the college chum who heads his entourage (Jay Baruchel) and the tech wiz who warns him about an impending currency crash (Samantha Morton) to his poet/socialite significant other (Sarah Gadon) and his aging mistress (Juliette Binoche). Although Packer has gymnastic sex in the limo, it's not the most graphic scene in the movie, which also includes a mobile prostate exam and a sadomasochistic tryst with a taser.
The limousine, of course, represents Packer's physical and emotional isolation. Just as money is an abstraction to him, so are other people. He watches the world outside his bulletproof windows with a fatalistic detachment, and when the limo is besieged by an anarchist protest, Packer is unmoved.
Pattinson, with his hooded eyes and vampire pallor, is well-suited for the role, but non-Twihards may want to smack him with a cream pie (as Mathieu Amalric does in one of the movie's few comedic moments). But by the time he confronts a more serious threat, from an ex-employee played by Paul Giamatti, we're ostensibly supposed to pity this spider because he can't crawl ino the light without getting snared by the worldwide web he helped spin.
“Cosmopolis” is based on a novel by the hyper-intelligent Don DeLillo (“White Noise”) and directed by body-horror specialist David Cronenberg (“The Fly”), so while it's solidly engineered social critique, it's not built for warmth. The rapid dialogue is dry and mannered, like a David Mamet play, there's virtually no story and Cronenberg's visual scheme is cold and claustrophobic.
If “Cosmopolis” is the world in miniature, we're stuck in a snow globe that refuses to delight us.
Two and a half stars out of four • Rating R • Run time 1:49 • Content strong sexual content, nudity, violence and language • Where Tivoli