The film directed by David Cronenberg is a scene-by-scene adaptation of the postmodern novella by Don Delillo. This works well because Delillo's prose is a narration of the present external reality of über-capitalist Eric Packer. The sequence of events in a significant day of the protagonist's life are viscerally depicted in both film and book. Fans of either or both director and author should not be disappointed. It is an artistic and intellectual story that defies easy categorization: a psychological examination, a philosophical exploration, and an epic journey.
The film cuts what could have been about 5 minutes from the beginning of the story where Packer begins his day in his apartment and rides his elevator down to meet the limo. If this omission was an artistic choice, rather than a budget or time issue (the film features well-known actors and runs for over 2 hours), it doesn't detract from the story. Packer's vast high-rise dwelling is referred to several times, yet the action takes place in and around Packer's limosine as it journeys through New York City. The apartment and everything else in his life appear as symbols, props, scaffolding for the dialog.
The camera perfectly captures the city's glossy-gritty qualities and the encapsulated atmosphere inside the limo, the interior world power, money, and technology.
Packer meets a stream of minor characters during his journey who visit his limo, most of them making only one appearance each. His chief bodyguard accompanies him most of the way, yet his character never develops, he simply represents security. His new wife makes several appearances; she is dynamic and three-dimensional, a real person Packer wants to connect with, or thinks he does, but the limosine continues on its journey and she stays behind.
The casting is tasteful and appropriate; with dialog and pacing much like a stage play, the actors necessarily hold our attention. Though American Psycho probably holds the gold medal for casting a psychopath capitalist, Robert Pattinson suits the role perfectly well (notwithstanding his part in another book adaptation which shall not be named). Paul Giamatti enters in the last and longest scene and carries the film to its conclusion (as if the director brought in a ringer to save it).
It is a film that can be viewed repeatedly. Delillo's story makes a timely statement on capitalism and its ultimate meaning for humanity that is impossible to digest completely in one sitting, and all of it is there in Cronenberg's film. It is tightly packed into mini-monologues as in the meeting with Packer's Chief of Theory:
"The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind. This is what the protest is all about. Visions of technology and wealth, the force of the cyber-capital that will send people to the gutter to retch and die. What is the flaw of human rationality? It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the scheme it builds.
"This is a protest against the future. They want to hold off the future. They want to normalize it, keep it from overwhelming the present. The future is always a wholeness, a sameness, we're all tall and happy there. This is why the future fails. It can never be the cruel happy place we want to make it. [...] We know what the anarchist have always said. The urge to destroy is a creative thing. This is also a hallmark of capitalist thought. Enforced destruction. Old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed and old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past. Make the future."
Cosmopolis. Director David Cronenberg. eOne Films, 2012. Film.
Delillo, Don. Cosmopolis. United States: Scribner's, 2003. Print.