Robert Pattinson and Daniel Radcliffe: indie darlings

So recently I watched The Rover starring Robert Pattinson. Then I caught the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s new film, the straight shot of demented madness that is Guns Akimbo, and it got me thinking… both these actors got their breaks in big franchise movies for children and teens (Radcliffe with Harry Potter and Pattinson with Twilight) and both, once free of those juggernauts, have spent the last eight years or so plying their trade in increasingly weird and wonderful films, about as far from the mainstream as you can get.

And that, in my book, has to be applauded.

I mean, I’m sure they’ve had many offers to return to big studio movies, yet they’ve stuck to their guns, akimbo… so to speak.

I guess my point with this piece is that I want to draw attention to them and give them some credit. Pattinson is arguably the better actor, but both have taken on some really interesting projects and really pushed themselves as actors, quietly rising up the ranks in my estimations. It’s as almost if the franchise movies that put them on the map is some kind of debt that they’re both working off.

So here’s to them. And to some of the films they’ve given us. Here are a few below.

Daniel Radcliffe

Is age 30 with 41 acting credits to his name. He’s played Allen Ginsberg, Igor, and a farting corpse. He’s tackled historical drama, fantasy, comedy, and demented action – his latest film sees him wake to find he has guns bolted to both his hands. It’s mad, unexpected, and delightfully weird.

The Woman In Black (2012)
Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Horns (2013)
Victor Frankenstein (2015)
Swiss Army Man (2016)
Now You See Me 2 (2016)
Imperium (2016)
Jungle (2017)
Beast of Burden (2018)
Guns Akimbo (2019)
Escape From Pretoria (2020)

Robert Pattinson

On the other hand, is a little older (33) and with a couple less acting credits (39), but has trod a similar path, albeit worked with more auteur directors: David Cronenberg (twice), James Gray, the Safdie brothers (who recently did Uncut Gems with Adam Sandler), Claire Denis and, this year, he’s in Christopher Nolan’s latest, Tenet.

Cosmopolis (2012)
The Rover (2014)
Maps To The Stars (2015)
The Lost City of Z (2016)
Good Time (2017)
High Life (2018)
The Lighthouse (2019)
Tenet (2020)
The Batman (2021)

Cosmopolis – a tedious trip for a haircut

cosmopolis-examWhat words can be used to describe how I felt about this film? Detached, alienated, nonplussed, baffled, underwhelmed. It’s a hard film to like, identify or engage with on any level.

Let’s back track for a second. Based on a Don DeLillo novel and directed by David Cronenberg, this film was always going to divide people. Not so much for extreme scenes, but because both Cronenberg and DeLillo are acquired tastes.

King of body horror
Cronenberg is known as the king of venereal or body horror, as his work – primarily his early stuff – explores people’s fear of bodily transformation or infection. Not for everyone.

I got my first taste of his style with Crash (1996). A supremely disturbing film that deals with car crash victims, sex fetishisms and scarring. Something I had to endure for the most part alone, after my friend couldn’t take any more and walked out after one freaky scene too many.

He’s perhaps toned down since those days. A History of Violence (2005) is arguably his most accessible and engaging film. Similarly A Dangerous Method (2011), another collaboration with Viggo Mortensen, was fairly well received.

robert-pattinson-hair-cut-cosmopolisDisconnected Pattinson
Robert Pattinson takes the lead in this film. In terms of career and perhaps mirroring Kristen Stewart’s strategy, Twi-hard’s favourite member of the undead has looked to gradually distance himself from the vampire franchise.

First with Water for Elephants (2011), facing off against Christopher Waltz’s evil circus owner, then a team-up for Cronenberg’s latest offering. Here he plays Eric Packer, a wealthy, young asset manager who decides to head across town in his limo for a haircut, despite the city being on alert due to a Presidential visit and protest rallies.

On the way all manner of individuals pay him visits inside the cool, calming interior of the vehicle; from business advisers discussing future strategy and other issues, through to doctors administering prostate exams.

Gradually it becomes clear that – through Packer’s interaction with these people – he’s living in a void, a vacuum, a dreamlike existence, devoid of any basic human connection and numb to the world around him. In that sense Pattinson was well cast and played the part convincingly, giving us occasional glimpses of Packer’s true nature, but mostly remaining hidden beneath a vacuous veneer of disconnection.

Cosmopolis-GiamattiCronenberg’s crazy world
Most characters – including Packer – never seem to be speaking to or even acknowledging each other during conversations. More often that not they’re allowing their innermost thoughts and musings to come out, seemingly at random.

The films builds – if you can describe it this way – to an encounter with a former employee, played by Paul Giamatti. Whilst their interaction follows a similar path to other characters Packer meets that day, Giamatti gives it sufficient bite to lift the film’s finale.

It seems that at this point, Packer’s numbness begins to wane, giving us further insight into his mindset. It’s still a big ask to engage with him as a character though, even right up to the end.

Breaking the Twi-hold
As dramas go this may sound intriguing, but in all honesty I just didn’t get it. A lot of the script was taken from DeLillo’s novel, so perhaps the wording requires a bedding-in period for the uninitiated. Maybe Cronenberg has just regressed to one of his more inaccessible phases?

Either way, Pattinson does well in the lead role and can be sure that he’s well and truly broken the hold Twilight may have held over him. Whilst this film didn’t rock my world, perhaps it was a good platform for Pattinson to push his career in a promising, new direction. Worth seeing if you’re a Cronenberg fan, but it will be a shock to the system for Twi-hards!