Review: Crimes of the Future

Runtime: 107 minutes

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: David Cronenberg

Actors: Lea Seydoux, Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Scott Speedman, Don McKellar, Welket Bungue

By Joan Amenn

David Cronenberg is back, which is either a cause to celebrate or cringe depending on your sensitivity to his special brand of horror. If “Hannibal” (2013-2015) or “Penny Dreadful” (2014-2016) were not your cup of arsenic, this film will certainly not appeal to you. However, if you appreciate a story with a philosophical slant as well as some well-placed humor to balance the ick factor, you might find yourself enjoying “Crimes of the Future” (2022). Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.

If “Hannibal” (2013-2015) or “Penny Dreadful” (2014-2016) were not your cup of arsenic, this film will certainly not appeal to you.

In a dystopian future of technological decay that inevitably brings up comparisons to “Blade Runner” (1982), mankind is facing something called Accelerated Evolution Syndrome. Like Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, Cronenberg’s “Crimes” raises philosophical questions regarding what it is to be human. Interestingly, a few of the costume choices for Kristen Stewart seem to echo those worn by Sean Young in “Blade Runner” as well. Howard Shore does not contribute a score as memorable as the one Vangelis wrote for Scott’s film but he serves Cronenberg’s story well in being wonderfully atmospheric.

Viggo Mortensen plays Saul Tenser, a man of intriguing talents. Saul can generate new organs, not all of which are understood as to their function. He and his partner Caprice, (Lea Seydoux) are performance artists and Saul’s body is the inspiration and living canvas for their art. Enough cannot be said about how riveting Seydoux is in this crucial role. She is affectionate, devoted and fully engaged in being Saul’s caretaker, lover and, at least onstage, his surgeon. Seydoux takes nimble leaps of emotional depth through dialog that could have weighed down the film in trenchant observations. Instead, she sparks real chemistry with Mortensen and lights up the rather grim, ratty sets with sex appeal.

Enough cannot be said about how riveting Seydoux is in this crucial role.

Mortensen is touchingly vulnerable as a man fighting his body as it seemingly has its own agenda it has not felt the need to share with him. He makes sense of his fate by claiming an artistic vision but this is not solace for the increasingly intense metamorphosis he undergoes. Kristen Stewart does not have much screen time as an investigator who takes a particular interest in Saul’s physiology but she is a jolt of adrenaline that gives the film needed energy. Her scenes with Mortensen seem to crackle with her sexual attraction to him.

“Crimes of the Future” is especially powerful in examining the love between a parent and child, even when unconditional love is tested by forces beyond a parent’s control. Scott Speedman is an antihero humanized by his love for his son, which he reveals to Saul in a most heartbreaking way. His story is a bit rushed and the ending of “Crimes” is weaker for not developing it further. However, Cronenberg has made a compelling treatise on the power of human transformation through art as well as biology with a bit of body horror tossed into the mix to keep things interesting. It may repulse you but it will get you thinking and that makes it Cronenberg at his best.

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