It would have been completely understandable if Brandon Cronenberg had looked to become a completely different sort of director than his father. After all, David Cronenberg is a very specific kind of auteur. However, the younger Cronenberg has staked out a claim to similar territory, albeit with his own spin. His sophomore effort Possessor (or Possessor: Uncut), is strong evidence of that. A bizarre, gory, and rather unique science fiction thriller, this is very much what you’d hope for out of a Cronenberg production (whichever director you prefer). If you dislike that sort of thing, it’s not going to change your mind. If you’re a fan, however, this is going to be a violent and weird treat.
The film is a sci-fi thriller, with a little bit of body horror thrown in, for good Cronenberg measure. In this world, technology exists to allow someone to inhabit another person’s body, taking over for a period of time. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an “agent” for a company that utilizes this brain-implant tech. Under the direction of Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Vos commits assassinations for the benefit of the company and its high-priced clients. She’s the best they have, but it’s taking a toll on her, both while in other bodies on jobs, and now in her own life, where violent images are bleeding through. Given one last job before taking over for Girder as Director, she’s assigned the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott). What seems like a complicated yet doable job quickly crumbles. Not only is the strain on her own brain becoming an issue, Tate’s own mind is fighting her for control, putting them both at risk. The more the two of them struggle, the more things go off the rails, with violent outcomes. Brandon Cronenberg writes and directs, with cinematography by Karim Hussain, as well as a score from Jim Williams. The rest of the cast includes Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton, Rossif Sutherland, and more.
Whether it’s the gore, the betrayal of the body, or the overall sense of weirdness, it’s no surprise that a Cronenberg has their name on this one. Hell, Jennifer Jason Leigh is even in the cast, for those who remember the vaguely similar Existenz. However, this showcases Brandon as someone with his own voice as well. In addition to that, he’s got a pair of strong performances from Christopher Abbott and Andrea Riseborough on his hands to assist in selling the strange premise. While Leigh and other supporting players like Sean Bean and Tuppence Middleton are fine, it’s really Abbott and Riseborough who make the difference.
Possessor: Uncut is undeniably a brutal experience, in terms of its violence and unyielding tone. For some, it’s going to prove to be too much. Brandon Cronenberg does not shy away from any bits of gore, nor does he spare characters you might see survive other movies of this nature. From start to finish, it’s truly an uncut vision. For others, though, they’ll see it as a Cronenberg coming out party. Whether that makes for a flick you can sit through or not, well, that’s a personal choice. For me, the brutality wasn’t enough to detract from the ideas at hand, and that’s what ultimately is why this is a success.
Tomorrow, NEON releases Possessor: Uncut, hoping to have an independent hit on their hands. In this current world, any indie breaking through is tough, and this is surely niche viewing, but it’s possible that it can really catch on. Anything is possible. In particular, if you’ve enjoyed David Cronenberg movies, Brandon Cronenberg’s second flick should strike your fancy. As long as you know the film can be a tough sit, you’ll know what you’re in for…
Be sure to check out Possessor: Uncut, available to watch this weekend!
(Photos courtesy of NEON)