Cronenberg Jr’s second feature sees him tackle techno-existential sci-fi with more assurance (but also with more narrative convolution) in this gory tale involving mind-controlled assassinations.
Dir. Brandon Cronenberg
2020 | Canada/UK | Sci-Fi/Horror/Thriller | 102 mins | 1.78:1 | English
Not rated – likely to be R21 for strong violence, gore, sexuality & nudity
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Plot: An agent works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies – ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients.
Awards: Nom. for Grand Jury Prize – World Cinema Dramatic (Sundance)
International Sales: Arclight Films
Subject Matter: Disturbing
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
In only his second feature film after Antiviral (2012), a sci-fi medical thriller if you will, Brandon Cronenberg (son of David) injects a new idea into the same sci-fi vein, but this time dealing with a concept that is of a techno-existential nature.
Andrea Riseborough (some of you will remember her titular role in 2018’s Mandy) plays Tasya, a woman who works as a veteran agent for an underground organisation that has developed secret mind-control technology that allows a person to ‘possess’ someone else’s body in order to carry out high-stakes assassinations.
At risk of severe psychological trauma which she tries to suppress and hide from her superior, Tasya is tasked to inhabit a man’s mind and body in order to acquaint and kill a key competitor.
Cronenberg’s direction is assured and Riseborough is a terrific actress with her steely eyes and tortured look, but Possessor can be confusing with its knotty narrative that convolutes into itself, and not always for the better.
There’s a subplot involving Tasya’s estranged family that is meant to invite some warmth into a cold and clinical work, but even then, it is hard to resist the film’s strong atmosphere of tension and nightmarish psychosis.
External reality and psychological realities merge and transform within the ‘possessor’ and the ‘possessee’, as the self (in whichever fragmented—or is it augmented?—form) tries to survive an onslaught of uncertainties, virtual or otherwise.
Yes, it’s indeed complicated. And it’s also very gory and violent, which will scare away the faint-of-heart.