Possessor

 

starstarstarstar

 

 

Andrea Riseborough plays a wife, mother and contract killer in Brandon Cronenberg’s provocative, gruesomely entertaining sci-fi horror film.


Possessor

Andrea Riseborough

 

One of the foundational questions in drama, dating back to the Greeks, has been “Who Am I?”. Identity is a pervasive theme in all media – that is, the examination of the self in relation to the self, the other, society, God… It’s a great place to begin when constructing a story. The challenge is finding an original and engaging way to ask these questions. I’m not entirely sure if Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is quite as singular as it posits to be, but the young director’s sophomore feature is slick, stylized and gruesomely entertaining enough to more than justify its existence.

 

Andrea Riseborough’s Tasya Vos knows who she is. She is a wife, a mother and a contract killer who hijacks the bodies of others in order to carry out her hits. With each job, she seems to be losing a piece of herself, growing steadily uncertain of her life and the details of her history. What does ‘identity’ comprise of if you spend a significant amount of time living the lives of other people? The concept is immediately engrossing, playing like an indie-horror version of The Matrix in the best possible way. Cronenberg strikes a delicate balance between show-stopping scenes of flagrant visual flare (that seem to be begging for VFX award nominations), and subdued, mundane moments of observation. Vos’s unique profession combines both the traits of actors and hunters: study your prey, truly know them, become one with their mind. In the real world, the trouble is you can never truly know another person. The fantasy of the film comes into play by allowing Vos to take that next step. She transforms. She becomes. And it is destroying her brain.

 

With a name like Cronenberg, the young director (son of David) has a certain reputation to live up to. There’s certainly enough body horror and gore here to satisfy audience members looking for that experience (there is one particular scene involving an eye and some teeth that is sure to make the weak of stomach nauseous). But the true horror of Possessor lies in the implications. Watching Vos inhabit Colin Tate (played by the always fantastic Christopher Abbott) reads like watching a more personalized version of Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Vos has done this job so many times that she forgets human behaviour, every interact feels alien and foreign. The body and the mind and the spirit are all distinct yet part of the larger whole, and the very idea of A Person comes into question.

 

It’s all very heady, and if the film left things at that it might be boring or uninteresting for most people. But Possessor never forgets that at its core it is about a hit woman carrying out a job. The action compounds upon itself, the story unfolds, crowd-pleasing violence ensues. But once the final credits roll, the haunting thoughts linger. Who was she, in the end? Who am I? What does it mean to be?

 

CALEB JOHN CUSHING

 

Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kaniehtiio Horn, Raoul Bhaneja, Gage Graham-Arbuthnot, Gabrielle Graham, Tiio Horn, Rachael Crawford.

 

Dir Brandon Cronenberg, Pro Fraser Ash, Niv Fichman, Kevin Krikst and Andrew Starke, Screenplay Brandon Cronenberg, Ph Karim Hussain, Pro Des Rupert Lazarus, Ed Deirdre Bowen, Pam Dixon and Matthew Hannam, Music Jim Williams, Costumes Aline Gilmore, Sound Martin Pavey. 

 

Rhombus Media/Telefilm Canada/Ontario Creates/Rook Films/Ingenious Media/Crave/Well Go USA/Arclight Films-Signature Entertainment

103 mins. UK/Canada. 2020. Rel: 16 October 2020 (London Film Festival). Available on VOD from 27 November 2020. Cert. 18.