Mere minutes into David Cronenberg's latest film we witness a small boy playing by the beach getting told by his mother not to eat anything he finds in the sea. This all seems straightforward enough. It's not until the boy starts devouring a plastic rubbish bin that we realise something is up, but it's too late because moments later he's smothered in his sleep by his own mother. It's intense and sets the scene for the film to follow. Or at least so you'd hope but alas, Crimes of the Future has a few interesting scenes and well formulated ideas but they're few and far between.
It's not until a fair bit later into the film where this opening scene's significance starts to unfold. We're promptly introduced to Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux). In the future, the human species have learnt to adapt to their environment, meaning the body can undergo new transformations and mutations.
As such, Saul and Caprice are celebrity performance artists whose shows consist of Caprice pulling Saul's new organs that he produces out of his body in front of a live audience. Sounds lovely, I know. Their movements start to get noticed by Timlin (Kristen Stewart), an investigator from the National Organ Registry who obsessively watches them to keep a close eye on what they're up to and to see if she can understand the next phase of human evolution
The world of the future is set up well through Cronenberg's impressive production design, giving life to his environment with impressive worldbuilding. We witness a man with his eyes and mouth sewn shut and ears all over his body. And it's ideas like this stand out but it feels like there's little more to than film than a mere idea.
Cronenberg has plenty of ideas bubbling in his mind for what he wants to say on the topic of human evolution, and he has plenty of memorable catchphrases including “surgery is the new sex”. But it just doesn't come to light well enough in Crimes of the Future. There are a few individual scenes that stand out but ultimately, I left feeling like I wanted and deserved more from it.
It's 107 minutes long but the bulk of it is spent aimlessly wandering around the world Cronenberg has visualised and brought to the screen for us. And for a Cronenberg film, there was no totally gross moment that made you want to throw up. There were a few moments of intense gore but nothing that truly left a mark on your brain by the time it was over.
The cast excel and Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux are fantastic, with their avant-garde performances providing some shock inducing body horror and seeing people's bodies being cut open and their insides removed is always what you expect from the latest Cronenberg flick but by the time you reach the end of the film's almost non-existent third act, you're not left with any of the answers you want and the whole film feels close to a waste of your time.
It's ambitious in its world building and has moments that spark some engagement but Crimes of the Future never fully captures you nor demands your attention with it plodding along and meandering its way towards its less than satisfying conclusion.
Crimes Of the Future will be released in UK and Irish cinemas on the 9th September.