Crimes of the Future Review

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With every new David Cronenberg movie comes a level of excitement. My anticipation for Crimes of the Future rose with reports of a six-minute standing ovation from Cannes. What really piqued my interest were reports of walk-outs from Cannes. Cronenberg is a master of body horror, and Crimes of the Future sounded like his most beautifully twisted film in years. However, I’m not convinced the walk-outs were solely based on graphic imagery. It’s not for those with weak stomachs, but the film’s main issue is that it’s surprisingly dull.

Cronenberg movies have two speeds. The Fly, Eastern Promises, and Scanners appealed to more mainstream audiences with their solid pacing. Films like Videodrome and Dead Ringers were slower, but the otherworldly environments and surreal premises could still suck Cronenberg fans in. Crimes of the Future has Cronenberg’s surreal stamp, but it lacks interesting enough characters and ideas to justify its sluggish pace or underwhelming resolution.

It’s a shame Crimes of the Future isn’t more engaging for a few reasons. The film marks Cronenberg’s first sci-fi horror picture of the 21st century, his last one being 1999’s Existenz. The potential for something more compelling is in grasp, as Crimes of the Future feels like one of Cronenberg’s most self-aware film. The story sets itself in the future (obviously) where Saul (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux) have turned the removal of organs into performance art. Some find it entertaining, others find it sexual, and others find it wrong. That’s how most audiences feel about Cronenberg’s work, which invites potential for a meta-analysis of his career. Cronenberg never takes advantage of this opening, however.

Cronenberg also fails to fully utilize the film’s most absorbing presence, Kristen Stewart. Adding to her growing list of risky roles, Stewart shines as a bureaucrat’s assistant whose interest in Saul isn’t strictly professional. Stewart’s Timlin becomes fascinated with Saul, whose condition allows him to grow new organs in his body. This dynamic delivers no payoff, though, and the same can be said about the film itself. Cronenberg has never been known for wrapping up his movies in a tidy package, but unlike some of his other films, the abrupt ending here is more frustrating than thought-provoking.

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For all its shortcomings, there is much to admire in Crimes of the Future. Mortensen delivers a physically commanding performance, moving with the vigor of a man half his age. Cronenberg offers several inspired visuals, namely a man covered in ears. Even on that level, though, Cronenberg has given us more disgustingly gorgeous films.  Aesthetic aside, what is that movie trying to say? For that matter, why does it share the same title as Cronenberg’s unrelated 1970 film? Cronenberg doesn’t seem to know and I have no idea.

Maybe I will in time, but for now, I’m glad I saw Crimes of the Future as a Cronenberg fan. With Cronenberg being something of a divisive figure, there are sure to be others who identify more with the film than me. In typical Cronenberg fashion, some will applaud, others will walk out, and people like myself will admire the film more than they enjoy it. Crimes of the Future isn’t a bad movie, but it’s easy to remove from your conscious, with or without surgery. And if there’s one thing a Cronenberg film shouldn’t be, it’s forgettable.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

One comment on “Crimes of the Future Review

  1. Joe

    How can someone call themselves a fan of Cronenberg and then be at a loss as to what he’s doing here?

    Crimes of the Future not only continues his decade-long fascination with the human body and its complicated relationship with technology, sex and violence, but it finds Cronenberg at his most political, self-reflexive and comedic. The film is filled with fascinating ideas and images and this review refuses to engage with any of them. It’s particularly telling that the one image the reviewer highlights (the ear-covered man) is mocked by the characters in the movie for being too obvious and on the nose. But I guess the reviewer missed that. It’s also mind-boggling to see Mortensen’s physicality be compared to that of a man half his age when he is dragging his feet, coughing, crouching in corners and struggling to eat for the entire movie. What film did the reviewer even watch???

    This is one of the worst reviews I’ve read in years. Watch the film again.

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