Tuesday, 17 November 2015
"Talent is more erotic when it's wasted."
The ideas are superb. Eric Packer is a twenty-eight year old finance billionaire, and he's profoundly alienated from his world. But this alienation isn't existential angst, not even when he murders his own security guard on a whim in a presumed reference to The Outsider. No, this is something much more modern, alienation caused by the deeply abstract, chaotic randomness of our financial system. None of us understand it, but all of us gamble on it in some way and it has the power to wreck our society with crashes and economic storms. And none of it is real, not any more. Not even money is real: most money in the world is just IOU's written by banks, and if it was all called in then the system would collapse. It's absurd, but not in an old-fashioned existentialist sense. It's post-modern capitalism, heady and dangerous, and Eric employs a "head of theory" to pontificate about it. This is a world where financial markets can be thrust into uncertainty by the interpretation of a pause in the speech of the Chinese finance minister.
Eric, over the course of a day, seems to engineer his own self-destruction- casually ending his marriage by blatant infidelity, gambling his fortune on a Quixotic gesture against the yuan and, finally, seeking death. Only there can be find reality.
The visuals of the film complement the themes superbly: most of it is set in cars, and Cronenberg lingers over their erotic visual power in ways that remind me of Crash. The effect is claustrophobic: Eric is limited in where he can go by the chaos (that theme again) of the New York traffic as the president visits, and we see this with the narrow spaces in which he spends the film.
I'm not a fan of Robert Pattinson but he's superb here. And Paul Giamatti is outstanding. But isn't he always?
This is a brilliant film, one packed with far more meaning than I've been able to tease out, and a thing of true beauty. It is also, incidentally, notable for its positive portrayal of Muslims. A superb film.