When the trailer for the hotly anticipated and award-winning movie Pattinson Cronenberg Cosmopolis rolled around, I knew almost instantly that it was going to be one of the best films of the year. As someone who holds a special place in my heart for dystopic films – especially those that are set in a near-future version of New York City – I was immediately gripped by the drama and intrigue surrounding the story of an ageing billionaire (played by Peter Sarsgaard) who buys a ‘bot’ that will help him stay youthful. But what did I learn from this film that I didn’t know before? Here’s a quick breakdown of everything you need to know about Pattinson Cronenberg Cosmopolis, including:
Trivia, Quotes, And More About The Filmmaker
Peter Sarsgaard (pictured above) has a pretty interesting bio. He’s well-known for playing both comic and dramatic characters (most recently, he was the curmudgeonly Ben Franklin in Jonathan Glazer’s critically acclaimed series Under the Skin). Sarsgaard also has a pretty impressive filmography, having starred in well over 20 movies, including Moneyball, The Hunger Games, and more recently, the aforementioned Cosmopolis. Clearly, this is a talented man.
One of the things I really loved about this film was how much it didn’t shy away from the darker elements. We see glimpses of the effects of the ‘cosmo’ on the characters – particularly on George, the main protagonist’s (played by Mathieu Amalric) brother – who goes through some pretty severe emotional issues as a result of what he perceives as a betrayal by his friend Franz (played by John Malkovich). The script is also fairly brutal in how it unpacks the issues of class, corruption, power, and more.
Although the majority of the film takes place in a futuristic New York City, it was actually shot in Toronto. This was done for budgetary reasons as the main star, Jonah Hex, had to decline the role due to scheduling conflicts. (I would have loved to see Hex in this role.) The film also features a pretty impressive array of A-list stars, including: Tom Berenger, John C. Reilly, Michael Caine, Bruce Greenwood, Jeffrey Wright, Oliver Platt, Tilda Swinton, and more. It was incredible to see so many famous faces all in one place.
In terms of the movie’s creative team, Mathieu Amalric and Vincent Patrice are undoubtedly two of the most talented young French film directors. With this film, they showed that they could both do gripping dramas as well as witty, black comedy. The two worked together on an earlier short film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and it was a real delight to see their mature, cinematic sensibilities showcased in such a compelling film.
Watching This Film Is Like Watching A Mini-Masterpiece
One of the reasons why this film resonated with me so much is that, at times, it felt like I was actually viewing something that was written by Philip K. Dick himself. In fact, it was so referential to many of Dick’s works that I started to feel like I was in some kinda weird parallel universe where all of Dick’s stories had been made into movies and were being played out before my very eyes. (This is likely an exaggeration, but you get my point.)
The plot of Cosmopolis is almost too complicated and extensive to fit into a short article such as this, but I’ll do my best. To give you a tiny bit of insight, let’s start at the very beginning. George (Mathieu Amalric) is an ageing, multi-billionaire who has a brilliant idea that will allow him to stay young and be financially secure. His plan is to create a ‘cosmo’, which is an artificial intelligence that he can control and utilize for all of his business and social needs. George purchases the prototype of this AI from a young, upcoming artificial intelligence company (GenNext, played by Lena Headey and Alicia Vikander) who are searching for a buyer for the product they have developed. The script then flashes forward several years to reveal George’s ‘cosmo’ is now operational and assisting him with his day-to-day affairs. George’s (Peter Sarsgaard) two closest friends are the equally aged Warner (Oliver Platt) and Morry (Bruce Greenwood), and the three of them become the titular ‘cosmopolis’, or ‘city of men and machines’.
What makes this film so fascinating is that, at points throughout, you feel like you’re watching a master class in filmmaking, as the camera angles, acting, and editing are all flawless. (The fact that this was directed by two such young and talented directors only adds to its incredible quality.)
The ‘Cosmo’ Improves Even More As You Watch It Backwards
Although I already mentioned the seamless editing and brilliant camera work, I don’t want to give the impression that all of the details are perfect the entire time. There are actually a few spots where I felt that the movie could have used some polishing, but nothing that will really grab you out of the story. One of the things I noticed right away is that, when watching the film in reverse, the effect is almost the opposite of what you’d initially expect. This is especially evident for the first part of the movie, where we see a lot of the city as it starts to come to life, as well as the characters’ outfits and hairstyles. Basically, everything that was in black and white suddenly becomes colourful and alive, almost as if seen through a veil of tears. A similar effect can be seen at the end of the film, when everyone’s outfits and hair colours are switched for their ‘dying’ scenes.
The point is that, as you’re watching this movie, you’ll start to wonder about the many parallels that exist between the future world and our own. For example, the issues of class and corruption are handled quite deftly, even though this was written and directed by two young Frenchmen. There’s also the matter of language. The language barrier is presented almost amusingly, with Franz frequently having to translate for George in German – not that George appears to have forgotten any of his high school French.)
The Most Dazzling Performance By A Solo Actuar
The most dazzling performance by a solo actor in this movie comes from John Malkovich as Franz. His portrayal of the avaricious arch-capitalist was so over-the-top that I actually thought at first that Peter Sarsgaard’s character was going to be played by a stand-in. (Sarsgaard is one of the most prolific and well-known actors in the world, but he’s actually not that big in the States.)
Malkovich is just as capable of giving a dramatic performance as he is of being outrageous and cartoonish, and it’s quite evident that he was heavily influenced by Dick’s work. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Franz was literally written into existence by Dick. The part of Franz was actually based on a real person named Franz Beckmann – a successful entrepreneur who founded and built Beckmann Engineering, a company that creates robotic limbs for amputees – and the film adaptation was written by Nick Hamm, who also wrote the Nick Hamm’s Night School thrillers. (I wonder if Hamm and Malkovich ever got together to talk about writing and directing a movie one day.)
While I was watching this movie, I kept thinking to myself, “If only there were more like Jon Hamm…” (Hamm is responsible for so many awesome lines in this movie that it would be a shame to leave out any of them.)
Worth Watching For
One of the interesting things about this film is how much it mirrors several classic sci-fi movies and TV shows from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly The Beverly Hills Hotel and The Prisoner. Essentially, this film uses very similar plots and devices to those iconic works, and that is what makes it such a fascinating watch. (The director, Mathieu Amalric, even went so far as to say that he wanted to pay homage to those movies while still offering something new and interesting.)
If you love science fiction, detective stories, and absurdist comedies, then you should definitely watch this movie. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘must-see’, but it is certainly worth spending the time to see. (1)