DIRECTED BY: Brandon Cronenberg
STARRING: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean, Kaniehtiio Horn, Raoul Bhaneja, Gage Graham-Arbuthnot and Gabrielle Graham
Possessor follows an agent who works for a secretive organisation that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies – ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients.
Possessor is an arresting sci-fi thriller about elite, corporate assassin Tasya Vos. Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes control of other people’s bodies to execute high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.
Possessor is written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, his sophomore feature to 2012’s Antiviral. In this sci-fi thriller we follow Tasya Vos, a corporate assassin whose consciousness, through implant technology, is implanted into the body of people closest to her targets in order to carry out a hit. Tasya is tasked with the next job by Girder, the biggest they’ve ever gotten, which is to take out John Parse, the head of a technology corporation. The company abducts Colin Tate, the boyfriend of John’s daughter Ava, so Tasya can possess and complete the assignment, but Tasya comes to discover that Colin’s mind is more resilient than her typical vessel.
The film is Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore feature, following up from 2012’s Antiviral. The film has a high concept in how an assassin works for a secret corporation that hijacks the mind of someone close to their target, but the main focus is primarily on the assassin’s own mental state. We see in the debriefing after the opening kill that Tasya Vos has to identify objects that are personal to her, to prove that perception of self and characteristics are still intact. Not only that but when she says she’s looking to spend time with her husband Michael and their son Ira, her boss Girder tells her that they’re separated, to which she responds she know’s but her expression says otherwise. Did Vos forget that she and Michael are estranged? Even when she does show up where Michael and Ira are living at, she spends time rehearsing how to talk to them, as if she has to find her own voice again. The film is a slow-burn of a journey towards looking are how little we have control over our consciousness and how trustworthy really are our own memories and thoughts? Tasya Vos seems to try to find her own identity and purpose in feeling something by the way she carries out her assassinations, where she’s tasked with dealing the job with a gun, but seems to get more create, personal even, with a knife being her weapon of choice in the opening job. Hijacking Colin’s mind should be straight forward, but due to jumping back in too quickly after the last one, Vos gets more than she bargained for as the battle of the minds commences between them both.
Presumably this is the Possessor Uncut version that was screened at the festival because the opening assassination makes the audience aware that this is going to be pretty graphic and for the remainder of the film there’s some pretty graphic use of violence, body horror and vivid imagery that might put some viewers off, but I was completely transfixed by it. The use of practical effects in the film are used to great effect, particularly in how it showcases the transition of Vos inhabiting Colin’s mind, as well as in one scene in which Colin has an attempt to get the upper hand and regain control and there’s a moment in that which I’m still trying to recover from its striking imagery. Brandon Cronenberg also provides us a glimpse into a future focused on literal corporate espionage and privacy infringement as Colin’s job entails of consuming data via access to the webcams etc. in their homes to collect certain details. The editing by Matthew Hannam that makes these scenes of distortion work effectively well, with the cinematography by Karim Hussain also being tremendous here. Andrea Riseborough gives a really good performance as Tasya Vos, someone who is methodical and efficient at their job but seems to have lost that human element to them and doesn’t know exactly how to rekindle it. Christopher Abbott also gives a really good performance as Colin Tate, as well as pulling double-duty with being Tasya Vos portraying him.
An effective use of practical effects with commanding performances from Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott, Possessor is a compelling and trippy thriller from Brandon Cronenberg that will linger in your mind long after you’ve watched it.