Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
It’s like if Gaspar Noe made movies that I actually liked!
Basically an otherworldly combination of a bunch of my favorite movies and concepts, (shades of literally countless other films and voices in this, from Ingmar Bergman to Cronenberg’s own father, but with the technical acumen and sensibilities of someone like Panos Cosmatos or Nic Refn) yet it somehow retains its singular identity as one of the most unapologetically bold and formally fascinating transhumanist films since probably Oshii’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence’- a statement I do not make lightly. I cannot remember the last time I experienced such a strange, hypnotic sense of visual wonder and fascination just by merit of the images alone (though if I had to guess it would probably be most comparable to ‘Under the Skin’ in this respect, with shades of ‘Paprika’ and even the more mainstream ‘Inception’ of all things) Some sequences were as viscerally haunting and stomach churning as anything you’d see in the likes of Videodrome, and others left me slack-jawed just because I couldn’t actually believe what I was looking at, a feeling I very much relish since I feel like the magic of film can be lost on me now that I’m older and more cynical.
If you’re looking for content that’s as original as the presentation and texture of the film, I’ll just be blunt and say you should look elsewhere. Is it saying anything new? I don’t think so. Is it telling us something we’ve seen before in a new, fresh, and exciting way? Absolutely. I don’t think the film does anything at all poorly, it’s exceptional in nearly every category if you can look past the incredibly broad and relatively scattershot theming, but as a favorite critic of mine once said ‘the medium is the message’- and Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomoric effort here uses the medium of film in such an effortlessly skillful manner that it makes me think this guy is onto some next level shit. The gliding camerawork, the impressive compositions that don’t always draw attention to themselves, the otherworldly soundtrack, and the impressively handled subtle performance work just forms this fantastic nexus. The best way to put it is that I feel like if I ever got the chance to make weird ass movies of my own, they would likely resemble this... or so I hope. Even if this doesn’t sound like your bag, I recommend it on the merit of being the ‘most’ movie of any film released this year so far and then some. CERTAINLY not for everyone though, as it’s combination of cerebral meditation, excruciating body horror, and pulpy cyberpunk action thriller may not mix as well for others as it did with me. There’s a unique impact to the violence and unrestrained gore of this movie that I can’t quite explain, and may genuinely put some people off.
I will totally watch this again soon because there’s a LOT here, and because I wasn’t joking about it being ‘stomach churning’- rarely do movies give me chills and make my blood run cold before the title card hits. If I wasn’t furiously writing my second novel of 2020, I’d probably put this on every other day just because there’s so much to love.
And... look, if I can be a bit more blunt in trying to sell the appeal of this weird-ass movie, it made me audibly exclaim ‘Jesus fucking CHRIST’ far more loudly than I should have at four separate intervals, as well as earning three genuine gasps of shock.