Many tales of possession, transformation, and replication of the human form have graced the screen for decades. Prime examples of this would be William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers helmed by Don Siegel in 1958, Philip Kaufman in 1978, and Abel Ferrara in 1993. These films, despite their differences, have one thing in common, the desecration of one’s own identity at the expense of the fragile flesh that is the human body.
In the film Possessor, Director Brandon Cronenberg does the flesh one better as one person’s genome enters into and resides into another person’s body, using it as a host, possessing them to perform a sex and death dance upon unsuspecting victims.
Tasya Voss (Andrea Riseborough) is a killer of a different kind as she inhabits a human body through a brain implant for the purpose of carrying out a homicide and discards the body after it is riddled by bullets, courtesy of the police. When she returns, she gasps in recovery, lying on an operating table in a darkened laboratory of an unknown corporation. This corporation uses Tasya and this technology as a means to take over other corporations by taking out their key figures. When she detaches from her host with help from her handler Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), her own self is scattered as she is unaware that she is separated from her husband. Her next assignment is to inhabit the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott). She must do this in order to assassinate John Parse (Sean Bean), the CEO of Zoothroo, a data mining company, along with his daughter and Collin’s lover, Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton) at the behest of Reid Parse (Christopher Jacot), John Parse’s stepson. As she conjoins with Collin and goes about her assignment, the connection with Collin starts to sever as a war erupts between the two minds. The duality between them becomes too great inside Collin’s body, turning a simple hit into a blood-soaked fiasco and culminates in a mind-blowing ending filled with shocks and surprises
Mr. Cronenberg adds to what his father David Cronenberg brought to the sci-fi body horror table and propels it into the future of what could be possible when conjoining two bodies together by way of transplants and genetic engineering. It’s interesting how the character Tasya goes for the stabbing and beating of her targets rather than simply shooting them. The brutal closeness of her kills contrasts with the banality and lack of intimacy in her own life. Director of Photography Karim Hussain visualizes this isolation with a clinically cold palette that extenuates Tasya’s isolation. Composer Jim Williams ties this movie together by various pieces that express the suspense and dread in some parts of the film coupled with loneliness in others.
Andrea Riseborough is expertly cast and terrific as the cold, deadpan, and lonely Tasya. Her affect works extremely well as she deals with the brutal excitement of her job that meshes with her cold environment of solitude. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives an effectively restrained performance as Girdler who orchestrates and handles Tasya’s rehabilitation when she emerges from her hosts. Her clinical but gentle demeanor are perfect choices for her character. Sean Bean is always a treat and continues to be so as the crass and controlling John Parse. One of the best performances in this film is Christopher Abbott as the combustion engine filled with unpredictability that is Colin Tate. Playing a tortured soul who has to literally battle two personas inside him is no easy feat for an actor, but Mr. Abbott pulls this off with professional aplomb.
This film is a strong candidate for one of the best films in the Cronenberg family’s oeuvre. I will make a bold prediction that this film is, without a doubt, one of the better science fiction films that I have seen in quite some time. If you enjoy a good possession film, coupled with technology and body mutilation which is figurative and literal, this blood spattered, mind-blowing film is for you. Watch it and be amazed.
Possessor Uncut is now streaming on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Vudu and YouTube.
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