Crimes of the Future is definitely not for all tastes, though fans of Cronenberg, and lovers of the macabre, will likely find it to be a must-see.

Film Review: Crimes of the Future

Film Reviews

Crimes of the Future
Director: David Cronenberg

Argonauts Productions S.A.
In Theaters 06.03

Sometimes my mornings start off with big decisions, such as “I’ve got a zoom chat with Glenn Close in half an hour—do I need to put on pants?” or, “Will I regret eating breakfast before a 10 a.m. screening of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future?” This is my gift, and it is also my curse. Who am I? I’m a film critic.

A dark, unsettling science fiction tale with elements of horror, Crimes of the Future is set in an unspecified era wherein the human species is taking the next step in evolution, though it’s hardly X-Men. In this case, people no longer experience physical pain, heightened immune systems render infections a thing of the past and, in extreme cases of “Accelerated Evolution Syndrome,”  the body generates new and seemingly redundant organs. It is in this strange climate that Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of The Rings, Green Book) and his partner, Caprice (Léa Seydoux, The French Dispatch, No Time To Die), thrive as celebrated avant-garde performance artists: Saul grows the new organs, and Caprice opens him up, removing and tattooing the organs in a true operating theater all while Saul is fully awake. 

It’s cutting-edge art in the most literal, possible sense of the term. Not everyone is a fan, however, and Saul and Caprice find themselves being questioned by two investigators, Whippet (Don McKellar, eXistenZ, The Middle Man) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart), who work for the newly-formed National Organ Registry. It seems that the registry has a great interest in what is going on inside Saul’s body and hope to use him to learn more about this next phase of human development.

Crimes of the Future has gotten a lot of press for the number of audience members walking out of the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, and it’s certainly not for the squeamish. Cronenberg aims to be shocking, and the surgery sequences are graphic, though not quite as gruesome as I was bracing myself for after all the hype. Crimes of the Future is an edgy, uncomfortable yet oddly entertaining mix of interesting ideas and captivating performances. Mortensen is quietly haunting, and Seydoux—an actress who seems all too rarely to be given enough credit for her depth—brings a wonderfully engaging mystique and emotional vulnerability to her role. The most interesting and memorable turn comes from Stewart, who could be a solid contender for Best Supporting Actress if she were given more screen time and a real character arc. 

And therein lies the biggest problem with Crimes of the Future: Nearly everything about it falls into the “almost” category: acting that’s almost Oscar-worthy, a vision of what is to come that is almost insightful and a story that almost convinced me that it had something meaningful to say.

Ever the master of the B-movie arthouse film, Cronenberg has infused Crimes of the Future with plenty of neo-noir atmosphere and a bleak yet frequently beautiful visual palate. There’s a well-played sense of dark humor and an even darker sensuality. Crimes of the Future has a lot going for it, though it feels underdeveloped, like a short story that either knows not to run too long or merely gives up on itself. There’s also a tedious pretentiousness that can be a bit insufferable at times. Cronenberg mirrors his own characters’ performance art by posing the question: is this bold and provocative, or is it merely empty titillation and exploitation? That sense of self-awareness may be the strongest element of Crimes of the Future, and if Cronenberg is truly calling out his movie’s own self-important airs, haughtily putting everything on display while at the same time proclaiming that “The Emperor has no spleen!” as it were, there’s a certain mad genius to that audacity.

Crimes of the Future falls short of greatness but still has a lot to offer. A plethora of themes are touched upon and various meanings can be ascribed to the film, including the wastefulness of humanity, the tendency to fear what we don’t understand, body dysmorphia and self expression, but it’s too cursory and shallow in its exploration of any of them to be genuinely thought provoking. Crimes of the Future is definitely not for all tastes, though fans of Cronenberg, and lovers of the macabre, will likely find it to be a must-see. While I relished the feeling that I was watching something unique, I would have been even happier had it given me a bit more to think about when it was over. –Patrick Gibbs

Read more reviews of macabre or violent films:
Film Review: American Night
Film Review: Men