Possessor: Uncut is the perfect epitome of a film you should go to see with knowing as little about it as possible. I will be as careful as possible not to give anything away as you are rewarded as an audience member for knowing the basics of the film and nothing else.
Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an undercover operative, who takes control of people of unsuspecting people to carry out covert assassinations on selected targets. Assisted by her handler Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), she tries to keep a normal life as a mother, yet she is failing at being a partner due to her secretive job. Worries flood Tasya that a remnant of each person she takes overstays with her after the job is done. Carrying on in her role she is assigned a new target.
Possessor: Uncut will have an opening unlike any other film in 2020 or maybe even within the last decade. Bold and horrific, it is a shockingly startling beginning. This opening is a litmus test to what you should expect then onwards even when the films slow itself down to provide some character, you know it will eventually return to something similar to that disturbingly gruesome start.
Vos has begun to lose control of her sense of reality, or perhaps she can keep a hold of it after immersing herself with so many others. She begins to doubt if she has carried out one too many missions. This is where Cronenberg is most interested in. Can one keep control of their mind when trying to force their will upon others? With Colin (Vos’ next vessel) he fights back. Unwilling to let full control of his mind and body to a foreign soul. Multiple questions are asked here, and all seem more and more relevant in this modern age where our decisions are not truly made by us thanks to marketing.
Andrea Riseborough uses her chameleon talents expertly here. She provides us with a conflicted character who can do heinous deeds and due to her distance from her family has to practice talking normally to them before returning. She is lost and although she may think she wants that normal family life, her job has taken over her. You want to root for her, but you can’t as you know she is a willing participant in the things that she has done. Cronenberg’s excellently puts the audience in the middle to decide how we feel about her and her actions.
Equally outstanding is Christopher Abbot as Colin. He has to carry a lot of the physical work here as he mentally battles to have control of himself. Abbot’s portrayal here, of his character but also Tasya’s when she has taken over control, is fantastic. Effectively playing an alien in a new skin, he rises to the challenge of his fractured role. With a strong supporting cast spread throughout, even in the smaller roles, they help elevate the picture into a special experience.
It could be very easy to go on about the comparisons of Brandon Cronenberg to his father, but that is for another time. This is very much Brandon’s picture and it is an astonishingly brutal achievement. An interesting note that Cronenberg wants the audience to see how Vos wants to feel life and a connection, be it spiritually or romantically. She tries to connect with her partner in her brief visit home, yet can’t and has to think about the previous murder to feel something. Being inside so many people and experiencing so much has burnt her out, dulled her. So when she is Colin, she wants to be intimate with his fiancée. She is desperately yearning for that connection with another human again that is mutual and raw.
From his choices in having characters shot to the side of the frame, to his decision to have specific shots added, this is a bold film and a wonderful collaboration with cinematographer Karim Hussain. They are able to immerse us into this world very quickly and at no point does it feel forced, which can be quite difficult and indeed treacherous for a science fiction horror. The wait since 2012s Antiviral has been well worth it here in Possessor: Uncut.
The camera lingers longer on shots you would expect to cut far earlier, we see images that are usually left to the audience’s imagination. This is not a film for the faint-hearted, be it from violence or nudity. Likewise, it isn’t a film that solely relies on those facets to succeed. Indeed this cut is a different version of what premiered many months ago. There is the sense that Cronenberg is not here just to shock, he is here to enquire.
Cronenberg has a lot of questions spread throughout the film about humanity, identity, control and technology. He doesn’t answer them all by the end of the film, though he doesn’t need to. It is almost as if instead of him delivering the answer to us. We have to go and find the answers elsewhere, perhaps from within ourselves. By giving us something deep to linger within us long after the yellow backgrounded credits have rolled Cronenberg has created something special and era-defining.
Riseborough, Abbott and the rest of this small cast enhance Possessor: Uncut tremendously. This has to be seen as the coming-out parade for Brandon Cronenberg. A tremendously human yet cerebral film.
To view more of our reviews as we cover the London Film Festival 2020, please have a gander below!