I saw David Cronenberg's new film Cosmopolis a few months ago with its early release in Canada. The US release date is August 17th.
The early trailers of Cronenberg's Cosmopolis put it on the "film nerd" to watch shortlist for this year. Any movie that seemingly tries to put as much artistic ambition as it can, usually gets our attention. Mixed reviews at Canned dampened some of the excitement.
I believe the former instinct was correct. Cosmopolis will be in strong contention for my film of the year and I'm sure others. While I haven't caught up on all of Cronenberg's 80s and 90s films (I've seen: Videodrome, The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers, Spider, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, a Dangerous Method) I would probably at this moment, say Cosmopolis is the best film I've seen from him yet.
There were 3 movies that came to mind as comparisons for Cosmopolis: Drive, American Psycho, and Before Sunset. Like Drive it is centered around a young, handsome "wannabe hero" who is driven to a disconnect from society and eventually violence, with the concept of a "drive" (in Drive a car, in Cosmopolis a limo) helping backdrop this. Except Cosmopolis is really more like the movie Drive wants to be when it grows up, if Drive is marijuana (an analogy I've made before), Cosmopolis is crystal meth or heroine, a much harder hitting substance in the system. Like American Psycho it draws humor out of the falseness of our wealth and superficial desires, through its rich protaganist. Like Before Sunset almost the entire film is one long stream of dialog and conversation.
It is one of the "most David Cronenberg" films I've seen in that the preverse and "sex or violence under the surface of this face" claustrophobic atmosphere that defines his career is in full display. One could argue it's Cronenberg broken down into the raw elements stage, in that the overall lack of plot movement allows just what makes this director unique to stand on its own, without those elements needing to be added to other traditional movie factors.
The combination of Cronenberg's behind the camera work and the performances are fairly masterful. Robert Pattinson is the standout and does everything you could ask for out of this "broken man" performance. This is a star caliber performance, the kind that makes you think his career has the upside to blow away his tweener Twilight past, by becoming an A lister and a man instead of a boy, in the same way actors like Johnny Depp and Leonardo Dicaprio made that transition. It may be the best performance anyone gives this year. Paul Giamatti also stands out by pulling a William Hurt in A History of Violence by knocking it out of the park with a "one scene" performance to end the film. Everyone else is also great.
There are reasons why Cosmopolis will polarize movie fans (as it has many reviews). The dialog (much of it from the book source) is unbelievably dense and somewhere between pretentious in a good way and pretentious in a bad way, depending on how you take it. The conversations come wave after wave and it's hard to catch them all, but together with the direction, the atmosphere of the movie lushes over you and creates an experience for a few hours. This movie is undoubtably an art film fan's movie to the point where it will polarize any strictly mainstream movie fan. I expect almost every showing at a mainstream theatre has people who either walk out or the next day start a "OMG, I just saw the weirdest movie ever, I hate douchebag art films" conversation. At the very same showings, I expect others in the audience will think they just saw one of the greatest movies of the millenium so far. Or a good way to see this for yourself, google "Cosmopolis movie masterpiece" and "Cosmopolis worst film ever" and you'll see these polarizing opinions have already started.
If you consider yourself an art film junkie and the type you likes making year end lists ranking films, you should see Cosmopolis. It is an uber ambitious attempt by one of the handful of directors who matter when they release a film. I believe it is his best film.