The previous reviewer, and Amazon`s own rundown above, will eloquently tell you the plot of this latest film by Cronenburg - surely one of America`s two or three best contemporary directors now - so I will simply give a personal response to what is a unique and impressive piece of work.
The opening shot is perfect: the radiator grill of an implausibly long white stretch limo, its metal bars like bared teeth. We sense we are in for as bumpy a ride as the smoothness of a limo will allow.
I had never seen Robert Pattinson before (really!) so his central performance as financial whizz-kid billionaire Eric was a pleasant surprise, his American accent pretty much faultless, and his assumption of the role of a 28 year-old washed-out capitalist beautifully realised. Cronenburg is no fool, and Pattinson`s `vampiric` past must have weighed in the balance as much as his box office value. He doesn`t disappoint, with his pasty pallor and weary eyes, though his diction is occasionally as blurry as his jaded gaze. In fact, one or two of the actors could have done with articualting their words more clearly. This is no mere pedantry since the movie depends on its precise, word-heavy script, each word there for a reason, so each word must count. Oddly enough, two who do speak, as well as act, with a lucidity that is pitch-perfect, are the brilliant British actress Samantha Morton and French legend Juliette Binoche, who play two `visitors` to his luxurious stretch limo as it inches its ominous way through the troubled streets of a faintly dystopian New York, a car in which Eric is insulated by its cork-lined, bullet-proof walls and windows.
He`s on his way to get a hair-cut at his onetime regular barber`s, a journey which becomes, for Eric and for us, an odyssey fraught with the unpredictable, the challenging, and the very strange.
Sarah Gadon is superb as his unsmiling, chilly wife - their marriage appears to be unconsummated, a situation which drives(!) Eric into the embraces of a string of women. Gadon and Morton in particular cope with the highly stylised, almost Pinteresque dialogue with aplomb.
Paul Giamatti has a scene with Pattinson towards the end of the film in which he plays a bedraggled ex-employee of Eric`s who holds something of a grudge against the would-be wonderboy. It is a mark of Pattinson`s immersion in the role that he holds his own with the superb Giamatti, an actor virtually incapable of a less than fine performance.
It`s a film that is more like the old Cronenburg - of Crash, for example - than his recent efforts. I don`t think it is anywhere close to being the near-flawless movie that A History Of Violence (his masterpiece?) was, but it is without doubt worth two hours of your time. It`s a claustrophobic film, especially at the start, and the director uses the confined spaces of the limo, as well as cafes and bars, to memorable and compelling effect. On the rare occasions we do leave the womb of the limo, he generally keeps his actors in close-ups to emphasize and preserve the sense of confinement.
I emerged into the light glad to see it again and glad to breathe the air.