LFF 2020 ‘Possessor’ Review: Gory Sci-Fi Sees Brandon Cronenberg Mature as a Provocateur

Brain-implant technology allows corporate agents to possess another person. With this technology they orchestrate murders. They enter mind of someone well located to their target, take over their mind and carry out the hit. Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is one such agent, and an extremely talented one. However the process is beginning to affect her beyond the missions. She can’t fully disconnect from the melding of minds, not can she forget the horrific acts she commits on her missions.

Brandon Cronenberg delivers on extraordinary visuals and mind bending concept. The premise allows for truly unique imagery. A face melts away in a void and forms a new face, a man pulls the skin off a woman’s face and wears it on top of his own, these are startling visions of a mind torn out of itself. The style contrasts sticky human bodies against sleek manmade metal objects. A journey through the brain becoming a tracking shot through modernist glass behemoths.

Beyond the psychedelica it is a fairly straightforward story of co-operate soulnessness. How the big companies literally use our bodies and force us to compromise who really are, all whilst inflicting harm on others who are trapped within the same system. It’s a very familiar concept, but benefits hugely for the approach.

The film is extremely violent. Most of the effects are very convincing practical makeup effects. This includes moments of violence between people but also bizarre sequences of body transformation. It does recall the older Cronenberg’s approach to violence that lured gore hounds and teen horror audiences in with promises of viscera only to be blown away by subversive imagery and challenging ideas about the self.

The film hinges on the dynamic between Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbot as they both wrestle over the same existence. Both are absolutely fantastic, especially as they begin to unravel, become at once more indifferent to their own actions but also more deeply traumatised. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a small roll as the ruthless boss, and does so very effectively, whilst Sean Bean plays against type very well as the rich asshole at the heart of Tasya’s mission.

Possessor might be new gloss on a familiar concept but it’s strikingly fresh in it’s delivery. With challenging imagery, a stark tone and a mesmerising pace, it’s a very welcome modern take on the sci-fi mind benders of the 80s.

Five Stars

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