Cronenberg is Back with Crimes of the Future (2022)
Title: Crimes of the Future
First Non-Festival Release: May 25, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Humanity has evolved with the changes in their environment which means they have developed through mutations that have changed their makeup. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is a performance artist who undergoes surgeries by his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) to extract organs and other viscera that his body extraneously produces. One day they venture to a governmental organization run by Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart) to register the organs he creates. As the duo plans for their next performance, they get caught up in an investigation surrounding an underground subculture led by people who can consume plastic who are suppressed by the government.
David Cronenberg returns to his roots in the middling sci-fi body horror Crimes of the Future which will still please his greatest fans.
Bizarre world building leads to more questions than satisfying answers in this latest Cronenberg outing. Many of the characters speak cryptically, often whispering, speaking about government conspiracies, underground organizations, and rapidly accelerating science. A calling card of Cronenberg’s, much of the information necessary to understanding the story gets thrown at the viewer in full force while still feeling the need to hand hold. With multiple layers to peel back in order to fully understand the plot, this approach makes it difficult for first time viewers to appreciate the intricacies of the world Cronenberg creates.
Hot and cold character choices make it difficult to understand the motivations of the players in Crimes of the Future. The main characters in this apocalyptic body horror tend to move at the whims of the story. Their actions and choices have little to do with who they are and more with moving the aimless story along. Twists and reveals are one thing but when the true nature of nearly every person is in question it becomes tiresome quickly.
Despite some iffy characterization, the cast stands out as a bright spot in the otherwise dull film. Viggo Mortensen effectively leads as the pain riddled performance artist, often carrying the more emotional scenes in the film. With his body being cut into so often while being forced to contend with the constant pain from his rapid evolution, Mortensen makes the most of his machine-bound performance artist.
Kristen Stewart, however, gives the standout performance as the timid yet deeply passionate Timlin. Her whispered curiosity and ravenous desire translate in every second she is on screen. “Surgery is the new sex” sounds audacious and sensual thanks to Stewart’s vocal prowess. Her physicality is on point too. Timlin skulks about while waxing poetic about her epiphany regarding surgery.
While its story leaves much to be desired, its impressive art design makes Crimes of the Future a beautiful and immersive watch. Cronenberg is known for his imaginative and deeply grotesque forms of body horror. Crimes of the Future continues the tradition by featuring some truly fascinating modes of bodily mutilation. The special effects team does magnificent work bringing the central surgery machines to life while keeping everything rooted in reality. The cinematography is crisp and sweeping, the locations are memorable, and the tone of the film is consistently dreary and dystopian, fitting the themes of the film perfectly.
Crimes of the Future is an intriguing film that is meant for the most diehard Cronenberg fans and dedicated arthouse lovers. General audiences will be turned off by the odd pacing and storytelling while uninterested in the more subdued body horror presented in the film. There is merit to a film with fantastic performances, special effects, and meaty themes but it becomes hard to digest when it gets lost in its own world. Crimes of the Future may not be for everyone, but the evolution of cinema suggests that select audiences might have developed a palette interested in consuming cinematic oddities like this one.
Overall Score? 5/10