Updated: Oct 19, 2020
Directed by: Brandon Cronenberg
Written by: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Risborough, Christopher Abbott, Sean Bean,
Nepotism is often seen in an overly negative light, even though it is often the case that the relatives of talented individuals are talented themselves. The reason why I mention this is because body horror enthusiast David Cronenberg’s son Brandon has gotten into filmmaking himself and with Possessor shows that he does have some of his father’s talents.
In an unspecified near future, technology has been invented that allows someone to enter another person’s mind and control their body. An unknown government entity has been using it to carry out assassinations, with Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) being their main employee. She is tasked with a mission to take out corporate head John Parse (Sean Bean) by going into the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), one of his employees. Whilst on this mission, Tasya starts to lose her mind, especially once the mission takes a unique turn.
Possessor drips with atmosphere. One could even call it style over substance, as there is more focus on that than there is a complex narrative. The story itself is simple and straightforward, only towards the end are there any surprise turns and there is also not a lot of characterisation, as only Tasya and Colin by extension feel developed. Whilst it does sustain it’s short runtime, the simple story and slow pacing do make one feel a bit of thinness overall.
But the story itself does have a strong through line, that being Tasya’s degrading morality and mental state. Both make for some very trippy and disturbing sequences, with the finale in particularly being both weird and incredibly depressing. The focus on bodies and the mind also lends itself to some horrific violence that does not hold back and will leave viewers cringing or shocked. It is rare to see such a bleak and slow-paced sci-fi thriller, but the bleakness and slow pacing are both effectively justified.
The acting from Riseborough and Abbott is excellent, with Abbott especially being great at playing Tasya pretending to be Colin and Riseborough managing to make the almost sociopathic Tasya human and sympathetic. Brandon Cronenberg’s direction is the real star though, as the aforementioned atmosphere makes for a film that pulls you into it’s world, despite the emotional distance. Also, the camerawork and effects are both mesmerizing and extremely well polished for a film that presumably did not have a high budget.
Possessor could have benefitted from a more complex script, but overall, it is a disturbing look at dehumanisation and one of the more unique sci-fi thrillers I’ve seen. Time will tell if Brandon measures up to his father, but he is on his way there.