Crimes of the Future Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A bleak, dystopian future look at the bodily evolution of humanity, where surgery has become the new sex. This is Cronenberg back at what he does best!
Genre: Drama / Horror / Science Fiction
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Steward, Scott Speedman, Don McKellar, Welket Bungué, Lihi Kornowski, Sozos Sotiris & Yorgos Pirpassopoulos.
Run Time: 107 min.
US Release: 03 June 2022 (limited release)
UK Release: 09 September 2022
German Release: 10 November 2022
As a fan of previous Cronenberg flicks, I was looking forward to finally seeing this one on the silver screen. Not only has it been eight years since the regisseur last directed a movie, it also marks his return to the subgenre of body horror, which he helped originate. Crimes of the Future, contains an interesting concept, seeing Viggo Mortensen reunite with the director in their fourth collaboration. However, it is not a flawless Cronenberg production, containing more than a couple of flaws. So, let's cut straight into my review!
Human evolution has accelerated for some bodies in an unspecified future, with new transformations plus mutations. The performance artist duo Caprice and Saul Tenser, who perform surgery in front of an audience, publicly showcase Tenser’s metamorphosis of his organs.
Let me begin by clarifying that this is not a remake of Cronenberg’s film of the same name, from 1970! It is an original concept, bearing no resemblance to the story of the past feature. In fact, the screenplay had been in development since the early 2000s, under the title “Painkillers”, with the director/writer sadly losing interest, after the project never entered production. It was not until recently that the director picked up interest in it again.
The plot contains a lot of philosophical layers that touch upon the themes of anatomic mutation, technological advancement, fear of evolution, just like government corruption or cover-ups.
The main focus lies on the human body itself. The statement “Body is reality'' is at some point displayed on an old-fashioned TV, during a surgical show. This a statement that couldn’t be more true, in a time when the body positivity movement is at a height. However, the film focuses on rapidly growing mutations of the anatomy, questioning the audience's perception of what it means to be human. It is somewhat ironic that Cronenberg chose a subject that obsesses over the natural evolution of our organism, given that his prior films focused on the blending of body and machine.
It also implements an interesting hypothesis, about how we influence our evolution through the technology we create. For example, there is a subplot about a whole group of people, whose digestive system evolved to be able to break down plastic, demonised by “normal” persons as unnatural. Most humans, though, lost the sensation of pain, unable to contract infections or diseases. As such, medical surgery became a sort of display art, evoking horror and awe inside the voyeurs. Finally, the creation of something that feels fresh and new, made it a unique cinematic experience.
Sadly, the emotional aspect was left completely on the side, making it heart for audiences to feel sympathy with any of the characters or the world they are living in. It is also left to speculation, as to what happened to the broken-down outside world. Most probably, the loss of pain lead to a wave of indifference, with many seeking sexual highs through the mutilation of their bodies. It is odd to see everything else decaying, while human evolution flourishes, along with its technological advances. Sadly, it is a point that is never truly explored.
Viggo Mortensen is one of my favourite actors, proving it with his marvellous performance once again! He adequately displays the character's suffering, as his body is producing new, unknown organs, especially during the closing scene! At the same time, Saul Tenser’s mysterious appearance plus his impassive attitude, makes him seem distant, nearly unapproachable. While being an interesting person, it is hard to find a connection with him.
Léa Seydoux plays Tenser’s performance partner and lover Caprice. A former trauma surgeon, she is the sophisticated “artist” that performs surgery on Tenser’s body, cutting out the growing mutating organs, in front of an audience. During the picture’s runtime, she evolves from a “passive”, sidelined persona, to a more active one, as an addictive sexual pleasure grabs hold of her. Seydoux gave a brilliant rendition.
Kristen Steward gives an equally fantastic portrayal of her persona Timlin; a quirky government officer, working for the bureaucratic “National Organ Registry”. Timlin’s job is to register new organ growths in humans. Steward gives her character some humorous moments, through anxiously insecure mannerisms.
The cinematography by Douglas Koch captures the atmosphere of the regisseur’s script perfectly. Overhead shots during surgery, close-ups of the inner organs, or simple headshots of people being surgically performed on their faces, set an atmosphere of a deteriorating world. The lighting, including the monotonous colour, adds to that mood. If anything, it is the editing that takes some steam out of the story.
The effects are practical, at least for the largest part. The CGI used is well implemented, not visible at all. The advanced biotechnological apparatuses used, look partially organic, with robotic movements. It is a perfect blend of a machine and a biological organism, horrifying to look at. The design, just like the effects used when transitioning to body horror are equally realistic and effective.
The music, designed by Howard Shore, is futuristically ominous, making use of cyberpunk themes, as well as transcendent electronic sounds mixed with orchestral brass.
Verdict: David Cronenberg’s latest flick, feels like a “best of”, ensembling all the ideas from previous works, woven into a new modern take. Sadly not all components mingle well with each other, as the lack of world-building, as well as the unapproachability of the characters, make relatability very difficult. That said, the concept behind the narrative is extremely thought-provoking. The philosophical nuances, paired with the body horror visuals, make for an incredibly intriguing premise that will definitely not speak to everybody. The performances by Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Steward are all stellar, though it is Mortensen with his balanced delivery of indifference while being physically in pain, who steals the show! Cinematographically endearing, the angles, lighting plus the use of practical effects for gore, set the tone of decaying melancholy. Not quite perfect but a good comeback - 7.0 out of 10.
Have you seen Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future yet? What did you think? Leave a comment & thank you for reading!