Brian Formo’s review published on Letterboxd:
The marketing for Crimes of the Future is, understandably, focused on the body horror elements. It wants to prepare you for something sick. And save a few cuts from the blade it shows most of the ickiness in the teasers. With so much focus on the surgery scenes or potential walkouts, what's actually exciting about seeing Crimes of the Future is how many thoughtful ideas are organically weaved into it. In a movie about the ability to will new bodily organs into being the most fascinating organ on display here is David Cronenberg's brain. He uses a near pain-free future (feeling pain has to be sought, but death is still a threat) as an avenue to explore evolution of the human species, evolution of art and creativity, subculture freak fandoms, plastic waste, intimacy via non-sexual organs, and our cultural shift toward cultivating and judging inner beauty. Ultimately every avenue is to ask what is organic and what is synthetic? Art vs. artifice?
While body horror is on full display it is rarely depicted as an actual horror but more like a probing idea. Crimes of the Future is deceptively more noir-like than horrific. It is about a broken man who has given up on the human species, is navigating/investigating a criminal underworld without a sworn allegiance to the law or to the lawbreakers but in finding some type of truth for himself. And what he finds through various dealings ends up giving him hope. Not so much redemption but a purpose to his art. An evolution. An organic way to give back to what has been plundered. Kind of like how our body does when we poison it with substances.
Like our bodily organs, Crimes of the Future is an imperfect but beautiful machine. Our vantage point is so small, every group we encounter is either into mutilation for pleasure or they oppose anything that might push the envelope past known humanity. It's all extremes and the world feels incredibly small. And there are so many characters that one of the main trio of stars was bound to be under-defined and, unfortunately, I think that's Kristen Stewart here (though she does get some bashful moments around her surgical arousal). But Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux are uniquely ravishing as a performance artist duo who push each other's bodies with immense care for each other's limits and desires. Speaking of desire, there are two femme technicians that make me so sad that Cronenberg never got to make As She Climbed Across the Table because they feel lifted from Jonathan Lethem's text.
Overall the moodiness is maintained at a low hum with new frequencies constantly being added. The ideas are surprisingly life-affirming and forward thinking. Crimes of the Future is both eerie and endlessly fascinating. I came for the body horror but come out the other side thinking of the future of the planet, of the future of our creative cultures — two horrors so large that we cannot seem to tackle them. I went in expecting to be disgusted and uneasy, and I left feeling like I'd instead been granted admission to a beautiful mind. Maybe I'm sick in the head but this ended up being one of the more body positive/human positive movies I've seen in our modern era. It eased me into ugliness but instead of reflecting it back it came out the other side.
I feel like my immediate reaction, similar to Cosmopolis, is going to run counter to many. As someone who is learning to listen to his body more and who has become more aware of his insides and how they affect my brain... I think I kind of loved it. I'm not sure how much he revised this script from his youth but this feels, to me, like an old master saying something wiser and more hopeful than what he would've written when he was younger. New organs > new flesh.