REVIEW: ‘Possessor’ merges great concept with a wonderful cast



Still of Andrea Risenborough in “Possessor.”

Do you ever feel like your job is a literal parasite in your life? Like it is slowly draining the light from your eyes and distorting the way you look at the things around you, alienating you from your loved ones and leaving you a shallow husk of yourself to the point where you don’t even recognize the face in your mirror? Well then, boy do I have the movie for you.

Brandon Cronenberg understands this plight so much that he made a whole movie about it in the fleshy neon-drenched cyberpunk horror film “Possessor.” In it we follow Tasya Vos, a corporate assassin who inhabits the bodies of unsuspecting civilians to execute high profile big wigs. Tasya is great at her job but it comes at the cost of her relationship to her estranged husband and son as she begins to not feel at home in her own body.

The plot thickens when she’s assigned to inhabit the body of Colin Tate, the soon-to-be son-in-law to a CEO of a major data mining company that Tasya’s company wants to take power of. Tasya’s approach with Colin as her surrogate is different and more difficult this time. What ensues is a hypnotic and twisty struggle for autonomy of Collin’s body versus Tasya’s control of him to commit heinous violence.

If you think this plot sounds audacious, you’d be right. Cronenberg crafts some of deliriously wonderful and experimental visuals, which thankfully do the heavy lifting for a less-than stellar minimalist script. Subtlety isn’t a strong suit with this one, it’s big and it’s bright and it’s loud as can be.

Much like his father — renowned genre filmmaker David Cronenberg — Brandon also makes provocative and eye-popping usage of graphic violence and sexuality to a stomach-churning and disorienting effect. 

On top of this, Cronenberg recruited some of Hollywood’s most under-appreciated talent for this film. Andrea Risenborough brings a subtle complexity to the emotional distance and struggle of Tasya so much that even though what she’s doing is wrong, we can’t help but hurt for her in a sense. 

The real star of this show is Christopher Abbott as Colin. He’s been on the top of my actors to watch list since his masterful performance is Josh Mond’s “James White.” Here, he pulls off a real tight-rope walk of a performance trying to be two characters inside the same body as once in conflict with one another, and not once does he falter. There’s also plenty of scene-stealing appearances from great character actors such as Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tuppence Middleton.

This film made major waves at Sundance and it doesn’t take long to understand why when you watch it. In an era where the culture seems to be obsessed with techno horror in the same vein as “Black Mirror” that give great concepts but have trouble taking them to that extra transcendent level of shock and experiment, it’s really special to see someone like Cronenberg who pushes it there and then some and makes for a genuinely unshakeable purely cinematic experience. It’s a great way to jump into the Halloween season.