Possessor ★★★½

Back when this movie premiered at Sundance (right before the world went to shit) writer/director Brandon Cronenberg sat down with Steve Weintraub, my favorite film journalist, and gave one hell of an interview. When questioned about the nature of the graphic violence depicted in his film, Cronenberg said, "There's something less disturbing to me about explicit violence in film, because it's horrifying in the way that ACTUAL violence is horrifying. I find it more unsettling when violence is sanitized. Someone can shoot 200 people over the course of a movie, but if there's no blood, then it gets a PG-13."

Cronenberg is so right - censored violence desensitizes and obfuscates reality. "Possessor," in all its lurid glory, shocks us out of this trance and serves us the world completely uncensored. Not a lot of people die throughout the film, but the few that do die, die gnarly, bloody, nightmarish deaths. It's just like, yeah...when someone gets stabbed in the neck, blood flows out like fucking geyser. That's life!

The concept of a secret organization of assassins who inhabit the minds of people so they can carry out hits for high-paying clients feels like it was written specifically for me...which is precisely why I'm a little disappointed that I didn't LOVE this film. It's certainly about a lot of things - alienation in one's own body, the internal part of ourselves vs. the external, data mining - but it strangely moves along at a brisk pace when it easily could have slowed down to develop more of its fascinating ideas and characters. This outrageous pacing is especially prevalent in the first act when our lead character Tasya (played by the supremely underrated Andrea Riseborough) preps for her big mission, and all of a sudden the mission just starts! I remember thinking to myself, "It's probably not NECESSARY to show me more scenes of her getting ready, but those scenes were interesting, so why not show more? You're not wasting my time, I paid to be here! Give me MORE!"

Also, without getting into spoilers, Cronenberg swings for the fences in the shocking and extremely dark finale, and I'm not really sure that he nails the execution. I can see some people loving where this story ends up going, and others hating it, and honestly, I don't know where I land. The movie seems to be too smart to go to this dark place simply for shock value, but then again I'm having a tough time coming up with a better explanation of why these events occur. Perhaps after reading more reviews from my peers I'll gain some clarity on the finale, thus increasing my overall rating? That's happened before, and it's probable that it will happen again with this film! So while I'm rating "Possessor" 3.5, it's a strong 3.5, and I can't wait to watch it again.

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