#REVIEW: “POSSESSOR UNCUT”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
I cannot tell if Writer/Director Brandon Cronenberg is brave or foolish. The man’s father David is a living legend in the Film world, creating unforgettable films that were just as profound as they were straight up disgusting. Those are incredibly big shoes to fill for any child, and I almost wrote off Cronenberg entirely after his first Feature, 2012’s Antiviral, played out like a not-at-all subtle greatest hits collection of scenes from his father’s most memorable films. But Possessor, his second feature, is a whole different animal entirely – one that lets him to play within the same sandbox as his father, but allows him to carve out his own niche and style.
Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) works as an agent for a secret organization that specializes in assassinations, harnessing a technology that allows Vos to enter the mind of another person and control their bodies. But when she enters the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), it becomes clear that it will not be easy to get back out.
Possessor is the kind of bold, Science Fiction filmmaking that many of us praise yet so few of us see. It takes big swings and bigger leaps, and is deliberately provocative by design. The way Cronenberg blends Science Fiction and Horror is downright riveting in some instances. I will not heap the same kind of praise that other Critics have, but the unique look and feel he brings to Possessor is extraordinary and are the hallmarks of a young Auteur in the making. I was simultaneously delighted and horrified to see how Cronenberg was able to manipulate Toronto vistas to create his vision. What I appreciated and admired even more was his uncompromised vision – the Film is more sexually perverse and brutally violent than anything you will encounter this year. The pro-longed violence in particular is vicious, uncomfortable and unrelenting. The makeup is incredible, but it constantly left me wondering how he ever expected to release the Film in any way other than it being uncut.
As great as those elements are, the issue I have with Possessor is how frustratingly enigmatic everything is. I could have spent hours living and breathing in the dystopic nightmare hellscape Cronenberg has his characters inhabit. It is dense and ripe for exploration. But instead of really diving into the who and why of these people and their actions, he decides far too often to just hang out in Tate’s headspace, flashing abstract images, patterns and colours at the screen endlessly. And when the Film starts getting especially twisted in the Third Act, Cronenberg stays the course and amps up the Film’s enigmatic nature to an even greater degree. I understand the value of shrouding the secret organization in mystery, but giving us more than surface level dimensionality to Vos, Tate and especially ice queen Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Girder could have improved the Movie drastically.
I enjoyed Possessor and admired its bold and uncompromising vision. If the young Cronenberg continues on this path, I have no doubt that he will become as brilliant an Auteur as his father before him. But the Film’s enigmatic nature is far too frustrating for its own good. There was so much to mine from this concept and these environments, and I cannot help but wish to have gotten more of it.
Elevation Pictures release POSSESSOR UNCUT in theatres on Friday, October 2, 2020.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*.