The Age
Right on the money

Right on the money

Sat July 28, 2012 12:29am

Was it a risk to cast Twilight star Robert Pattinson in a film about the world of super-rich bankers?

NOBODY knows what an actor is capable of doing until he's doing it, David Cronenberg says. But even Cronenberg, a filmmaker known for his fearlessness, can't deny the risk in casting Robert Pattinson, a heart-throb of teenage girls the world over, as the central villain in a film consisting almost entirely of people talking quickly and in deliberately obscurantist language about currency movements while sitting in the back of a limousine.

Cosmopolis, based on Don DeLillo's difficult, dystopian novel, is light years away from the Twilight franchise. It is, come to that, many zones further from centre than Cronenberg's most recent film, A Dangerous Method, in which the dense conversations were at least couched in the relatively familiar verbal tropes of psychoanalysis. This is a film about people who talk in numbers: huge numbers.

Thus we follow billionaire investment banker Eric Packer, played with robotic unpleasantness by Pattinson, as he inches through the streets of New York in his luxurious, gadget-packed stretch limousine. Packer's mission is to get a haircut from his favoured barber on the other side of town - for a man who has everything, only tiny things matter - but his immediate concern is the unpredictable swing of the yuan, with the currency shown zigzagging tantalisingly on screens inside the car.

Outside the stretch, a presidential visit and an anti-capitalist riot slow the traffic to the extent that Packer's bodyguard can walk beside his master's car. He also ushers in a series of consultants and associates - a software whiz-kid, Packer's doctor, his art dealer (Juliette Binoche) and his ''head of theory'' (Samantha Morton), who offers Packer an analysis of the meaning of the protests. ''What is it the anarchists say?'' she snaps at him. ''The urge to destroy is a creative urge.'' Perhaps the banker is thinking exactly that when he leaves the car to meet a man (Paul Giamatti) who has been threatening, hitherto anonymously, to kill him.

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