Presumably set in the near future, Possessor follows Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), an assassin who, through brain-implant technology, takes control over other people’s bodies. With it, she can go in for the kill and subsequently make the possessed body commit suicide as she is pulled out and back into her own body. Increasingly, the job is taking its toll on Vos. Not only is her family life falling apart, but she is slowly losing control over those she possesses. This to the point that, during her latest mission, she gets trapped inside her victim’s mind.
A story of Cronenbergian proportions, in other words, which makes perfect sense as Possessor is written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, David’s son.
From a technical perspective, it is an expertly assembled movie. Possessor is beautifully shot, with scenes moving between a creeping menace to ultra-saturated bursts. Jim Williams provides a haunting score, creating a borderline ambient soundscape. It drives the visuals as much as the visuals drive the music. The package is impeccable.
And people who love Possessor really and truly adore it. Its cult-following is right up there with that of David Cronenberg’s films. Possessor is the type of movie I usually have a soft spot for, and I suppose that is the case here, too, with some significant caveats. Possessor sort of works but doesn’t entirely succeed in what it sets out to do.
Part of it comes down to the pacing. It’s a slow burn, which I’m on board with, but it is strangely not that menacing. Vos is setting up her latest victim to appear unhinged before committing his/her murders, which doesn’t have the impending flow it should have. Instead, Colin (Christopher Abbott) is more socially awkward than unhinged, and when he finally pulls the gun, it comes out of left field. The build is not as gradual as one would expect.
The murders – or attempted ones – are graphic. I can only assume that they are supposed to stand in garish contrast to the slow pace that precedes them, but instead, they feel out of place. Providing divergence between scenes make perfect sense, but there still needs to be a continuous thread, and that is something Possessor is missing.
Yet, the actual performances are good. Vos portrays a woman whose mind has scrambled through murders and possessions in a way that has left her a shell of what she used to be. I might not necessarily find Colin’s behavior fitting for the storyline, but Tate does a good job with what he has to work with. Additionally, we have Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Been lending their usual quality – their roles aren’t huge, but it’s always nice to see them.
In the end, it comes down to the unevenly-paced storyline. The potential was there, but the execution was shaky. Still, the echoes of greatness are there, and while Possessor didn’t quite work, I foresee great things in Brandon Cronenberg’s future.
Letterboxd summary: Tasya Vos, an elite corporate assassin, uses brain-implant technology to take control of other people’s bodies to terminate high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment, Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||3/6|