MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Sci-Fi Psychological Horror/Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Kaniehtiio Horn, Raoul Bhaneja, Gage Graham-Arbuthnot, Rachael Crawford, Hrant Alianak, Gabrielle Graham/Runtime: 104 minutes
I think it can be safely said that every so often, despite what evidence may exist to the contrary, I am concerned from time to time about insulting an up and comer in the land of movie magic by writing that their latest slice of cinema could just as easily be a movie that their famous parent could have made at one point in time. Of course with all of that in mind I feel there is no denying that Brandon Cronenberg, son of one David Cronenberg (yes THAT David Cronenberg) was more than aware of what he was doing when he helmed his second slice of cinema, and movie I am reviewing today, 2020’s Possessor. Indeed not only is this a slice of cinema dealing with a mind-control device being inserted somewhere on the body, but it also has gore which could be controversial to say nothing of certain tools that, much like the ones seen in Dead Ringers, permit acts of violence to occur under a shield of ritzy glamour. Heck this slice of cinema also has Jennifer Jason Leigh among its cast members much like the senior Cronenberg’s underrated film eXistenZ from the late 90s. At the same time though this brilliantly delivered film is also one that is very much a product of the time frame in which it was released as it has more than a few things in common with some of the better films of a similar ilk as seen here lately. (A lot of which also have a few distinct touches that can be attributed to the work done by the senior Cronenberg.) Suffice it to say that with the aid of phenomenal work done on both sides of the camera, this is not only a fantastic slice of cinema, but is also one that could and should permit its talented helmer to find a much wider audience than his first slice of cinema was able to all the way back in 2012.
The plot is as follows: So according to the lore set up by the film, we are taken to an alternate version of the year 2008 where we see that a phenomenal advancement has been made in a career that might not be that level of positive to the majority of the population. Namely that technology has been developed which now makes it possible for an assassin to hijack the body of another person and then utilize that person to execute their assignments for them. Now I know you’re probably wondering about exposure, but fear not because they have managed to cover that angle as well. Namely by making it so that the only path an assassin has back into their own body is to have the body they have unwillingly hijacked either bump themselves off or have other people bump off the host body. It is with that background in place that we meet our main character, a woman by the name of Tasya Vos. Tasya, we quickly learn, is one of the best in her business yet as of late she has started to find herself getting a bit worn-down. A feat she attributes to all the jumps between her body and other people’s, but which her handle Girder attributes more to the bond our main character has with her husband and child who she loves with a passion. Yet despite their differences in opinion on that matter there is no denying that the two still make a fairly effective team. Thus it isn’t long before we see our main heroine, despite her issues, is determined to be a still viable option to participate in another mission with the understanding that this will be her last for awhile. A mission that will see our heroine take over the mind of a young man by the name of Tate. A seemingly ordinary young man except for the fact that his fiance also happens to be the daughter of a very rich and very powerful industrialist who has rubbed some equally as powerful and wealthy people the wrong way as of late. It is these people who would like our heroine, once she has hijacked Tate’s mind, to go after both the industrialist and his daughter and quietly “make them disappear”. Yet whilst the initial mind possession goes off without a hitch, we soon see a set of issues begin to emerge. Ones that will turn what was supposed to be a fairly routine and run of the mill assignment into no more and no less than a thrillingly desperate battle for survival……
Now right off the bat it should be noted that film helmer David Cronenberg is highly viewed as one of the most daring film helmers in his generation. Indeed here is a guy who is the party behind yes the impressive Eastern Promises and A History of Violence from 2007 and 2005 respectively, but was also the helmer of some of the most iconic slices of cinema in the body horror subgenre back in the 1980s with such iconic titles as The Fly from 1986 and Videodrome from 1983 respectively. With that kind of filmography in mind therefore, it was fairly difficult for me not to be just a little bit curious about his son Brandon’s second time at the helm of a slice of cinema. Indeed based off the trailer, it really did appear to be one that not only threw out tributes to the films made by his father, but it also promised that Brandon had a vision for this distinct story that was truly all his own. As a result, you can imagine how happy I am to tell you therefore that this slice of cinema most assuredly takes its helmer out of from under his dad’s cinematic legacy and proves that he is a novel, bold, and highly trailblazing helmer in his own right. This starts with the work that is done in regards to this slice of cinema’s script was penned by the director himself and it is fantastic. Yes in many respects it does pay tribute to the work done by his dad, but it also manages to conjure up a potent vibe of novelty about it. A feat it manages to pull off courtesy of being in equal parts analytical, psychological, and equipped with both some truly jaw-dropping work from the visual department that really does an invaluable job of selling the viewer on embarking down this truly riveting journey to the heart of madness, a musical score that is amongst some of the most downright spine-tingling I have heard in a movie from the 2020s to date, and the insertion of some truly visceral violence that the helmer ingeniously chooses to restrain himself on utilizing in order to wisely keep his film into something resembling a “gore-porn” or a film of a similar ilk. Yet perhaps the finest effect that this slice of cinema has going for it is the fact that the studio put enough faith in Cronenberg to not really interfere in any meaningful way. A fact that becomes quite apparent when you get to the conclusion of this slice of cinema. A conclusion incidentally that, without going into spoilers, will no doubt have you possibly wanting to raise up your pitchforks, light your torches, and try to cancel this man on Twitter. Be that as it may be, I still tip my hat to the man and gift him credit for having the guts to take things to the extreme that he does and not have him possess a care in the world as to what anyone else may think. Any way you look at it however, there is no denying that Cronenberg and his team behind the camera have managed to sculpt a cinematic endeavor that will most assuredly find a space to take up in the mind of you, the film goer and then choose to stay comfortably nestled in there for quite awhile.
Now whilst I am definitely of the opinion that the craftsmanship done by the various departments working behind the camera should without question be praised for this slice of cinema being as potent and riveting as it turns out to be, I also have to add an asterisk to that praise. That is because I am also of the belief that credit should also be gifted to the phenomenal cast of performers whose performances in front of the camera are just as electric and engaging. This starts with Andrea Riseborough in the lead role and titular possessor and she is terrific. Indeed Riseborough manages to do a beautiful job of being a well-designed blend of both immensely skilled yet also quite sensitive as well. As a result, this blend also goes a long way towards ensuring that we as movie goers can view this highly seasoned hit woman who is also at the same time slowly starting to lose her grip on things in a manner that is fairly believable yet also realistic as well. At the same time here is a character who finds herself in a position where for the first time in quite awhile she is legitimately afraid and yet she continues to move forward in a manner that feels organic and not shoehorned in for the sake of the story being told. Suffice it to say that this seemingly perfect storm that is very much brewing inside this individual without question could have been quite the befuddled fiasco in a less-talented performer’s hands, but Riseborough manages to overcome these odds and give a fairly impressive performance. On the other side of this cinematic coin is the fairly riveting performance being given by Christopher Abbott as Colin Tate. Indeed Abbott, to a fair degree more than Riseborough, has quite the distinct acting challenge in this in the form of portraying someone whose mind has been hijacked by someone else. As a result not only does Abbott need to share certain basic idiosyncrasies unique to that person, but also possess his own collection of idiosyncrasies due to certain details about the narrative that, in keeping with my long-standing tradition, I vehemently refuse to go into any detail about here. It is with that in mind therefore that I should let you know that by the conclusion of this distinct narrative, Abbott manages to give movie goers one of the most riveting and potent on an emotional level performances in a slice of cinema from the year 2020 and manages to do just a wonderful job as Riseborough at pulling the audience into this twisted cinematic landscape. Yet even when you factor in a pair of terrific, albeit for entirely different reasons, co-starring efforts from the ever dependable Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Bean amongst others what you get is a group of performers whose skill at taking over a scene blends together with the work done behind the camera to create performances that are something truly special to behold.
All in all much in the same vein as the finest entries in his dear ol’ dad’s filmography, the 2020 slice of cinema that is Possessor from film helmer Brandon Cronenberg is one that most assuredly is designed to do a few things. Namely, it is meant to incite and pinch at the most immersed concepts of who we are as individuals to say nothing of flesh out our numerous anxieties in regards to the flesh and bone package that we do our best to thrive in every single day of life on this planet and in regard to that this slice of cinema manages to do that unnervingly yet also brilliantly well. Yes there are more than a few flaws to be found in this slice of cinema and the resolutions that the film does choose to present us with could be viewed as perhaps a wee bit more cynical
than the vast majority of movie goers might like. However if that degree of cynicism is something you can vibe with and the idea of assassin mind-jacking chaos complete with buckets of both grisly gore and colorful neon is something that sounds like a fun cinematic adventure to you then I feel that the phenomenally made and acted Possessor is one slice of cinema that definitely will be right up your alley. On a scale of 1-5 I give Possessor “2020” a solid 4 out of 5.