REEL Review – Possessor (2020)

Director: Brandon Cronenberg | 1h 43mins | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

An Assassin Agency takes care of it’s targets by taking over people’s bodies in order to complete their kills. Their top agent Tasya (Andrea Risenborough) begins to struggle with her own mind when she’s assigned to kill a rich business man (Sean Bean) by occupying his future Son-in-law, Colin (Christopher Abbott).

Identity is a curious thing, something that’s been explored across all genres. Think Mulholland Dr. (2001) for it’s Lynchian deep-dive or even Persona (1966) for it’s beautiful dissection of two women’s personality paralleling. Cinematic history is full of rich infiltrations of the human psyche, but never have I watched a mediation on identity so engulfing and immersive as Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor. A unique blend of high-concept Sci-Fi, full exploration of missing identity and attention to physical detail just like the director’s Father, David Cronenberg.

Every part of Possessor is intriguing, it builds character quickly with a subtle visual style that is already challenging the core of the film story. The lead character, played by a wonderful Andrea Risenborough, is exceptional in her job but struggles to find connection to her separated husband and her young son. Cronenberg delicately chooses his shots, always capturing Risenborough’s vacant expression as she struggles with the day-to-day socialising and mothering. It’s the perfect set up for the conscious madness that’s about to ensue as she dives right in to a new job.

Here she takes over the body of Colin Tate, a young guy who’s engaged to the daughter of the target. The way in which Cronenberg shows us the transition of consciousness is pretty mesmerising, essentially melting a model of Tasya as if her being is temporarily disappearing and blending it with a model of Colin, reversing the visual. It’s such a unique way to show us the transition, and Cronenberg continuously outdoes himself, creating visuals that are spine-shattering in their effectiveness and even giving the violence a valid reason to be there.

Just like Antivirals (2012) subtle use of facial morphing, Possessor’s gorgeously manic envisioning of a split mind is proof that he’s not afraid to take those extra steps to create something with meaning and thought provocation.

The film leads to an explosive scene between Colin (or Tasya) and his soon to be Father-in-law, one that is intensely violent. The plan is always to get in and get out quickly, but Tasya’s connection becomes a bit too committed (something we see in the first scene). Rather than shoot the target and get out, she draws it out as if she’s thriving off of the violence. But like I said, it’s done for good reason – as a character she’s losing her identity and becoming too engulfed in her work, which coincidentally involves a lot of murder. It’s a scene that takes no prisoners but demands attention through a hypnotic visual and intimately gruelling violence.

You can easily see Cronenberg’s influence, growing up on the sets of his Father’s greatest achievements, celebrated for their body horror. While there is no doubt David Cronenberg is a master filmmaker, his films can sometimes become over reliant on the goopy body horror that litters a lot of his 20th Century work. But his son is using it with his own vision in mind. Just like Antivirals (2012) subtle use of facial morphing, Possessor’s gorgeously manic envisioning of a split mind is proof that he’s not afraid to take those extra steps to create something with meaning and thought provocation.

This film was a wonderfully unexpected surprise, one that was far more engrossing and intensified than the surname of it’s Director suggests it would be. We’ve seen a lot of Director’s working in the shadow of parental fame but it has to be said that Brandon Cronenberg is on the way to cultivating a unique path for himself as a filmmaker, one that is hopefully just as bizarre and brilliant as Possessor.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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