Directed By Brandon Cronenberg
Starring – Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh
The Plot – Tasya Vos (Riseborough) is a corporate agent who uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people’s bodies, driving them to commit assassinations for the benefit of the company. While she has a special gift for the work, her experiences on these jobs have caused a dramatic change in her, and in her own life she struggles to suppress violent memories and urges. As her mental strain intensifies, she begins to lose control, and soon she finds herself trapped in the mind of a man whose identity threatens to obliterate her own.
Rated R for strong bloody disturbing violence, strong sexual content, some graphic nudity, adult language and brief drug use
– Generational expertise. As the son of legendary science fiction director, David Cronenberg, Brandon has immensely big shoes to fill, but in only his second feature length film he has attained a balance of artistic and psychological merit that spellbinds every intoxicating frame. On a photographic level, Cronenberg’s slow, methodical and often revolving approach to studying as much of the atmosphere and emotional resonations vividly paints an unnerving disturbing silence that practically has us begging for a cut. In addition to this, he instills as many complex and unorthodox shots that pushes the boundaries of the story’s visual framing, and solidifies an overall presentation that is anything but consistent for the way it continuously shifts and evolves with the very complexities of this story. It proves that he has attained a wealth of cinematic knowledge on his way to inevitably solidifying his name for his own, and casts him near the top of the list of promising filmmakers who I can’t wait to see what they will do next.
– Hypnotic production design. From the futuristic set designs providing as much Scandanavian influence to offset the movie’s very modernistic setting, to the exotic illumination from a vibrancy of color coordination, this film is a visual treat to take in, and one that plays so feverishly with the nightmarish imagery that it promotes. I’ve always believed that science fiction cinema should offer a transporting experience that tests the boundaries of fantasy and reality accordingly, and while the overriding color pallets of the movie’s many intoxicating sequences play so handidly within the context of a world that looks so unlike anything of our own, it is very much harvested in reality, beneath this secret operation that our many characters are involved in. Cronenberg certainly values style in the integrity of his film, making it an unavoidable presence throughout whose magnetism only luminates thicker the longer we immerse ourselves in Tasya’s delve into the mind of her captors.
– Passionate pawns. The movie brings forth two riveting performances from Riseborough and Abbott, who command the attention of the screen for dramatically different reasons each time they’re on screen. For Riseborough, it’s an emotionally dominating turn, finely illustrating the weight and wear of an operation that has so evidently played a cost on her decaying mental frailty. There’s an almost animalistic quality to the way she commands Tasya, embodying her as this vague, emotionless presence with a job-first mentality. For Abbott, it’s a physical struggle from within him that plays out in the mental tug-of-war between two sides controlling him, which brings forth no shortage of screen captivating time for Abbott’s bodily psychology. It’s hard enough to illustrate this disposition from an energetic stance by the actor, but all the more impressive when you consider Abbott’s character must do so while embodying a female presence undertaking such, and do so without it feeling comical or ridiculous toward soiling the movie’s thrilling tonal consistency. Abbott can give in a look what many can’t do with a hundred words of dialogue, communicating this internal struggle from within that somehow attains the value of him being a victim and a commander simultaneously at all times.
– The next step. Movies like “Blade Runner”, “Alien”, and “Ex-Machina” have redefined and evolved what science fiction cinema is all about, and “Possessor” certainly feels like the next step in ascension. Aside from this film taking a concept made famous by “The Matrix”, and fleshing it out in a way that maintains stakes and consequences to each immersive transformation, the film underlines with it a psychological social commentary on psychosis, seedy corporations, and emotional instability that makes it a valued conversation piece long after the film concludes. What I find so stimulating about Cronenberg’s experiences within the film is the way he solidifies memories and awareness as the stripped-down building block solidifier to one’s personal identity, adding great meaning to the concept that society can see you one way while you see yourself as another. It juggles such hefty themes to a movie that can be appreciated enough as it is on entertaining value alone, but leaves much for discussion for future rewatches.
– Entrancing musical score. Composer Jim Williams caps off an invigoratingly rampant chorus of hymns and electronic trance compositions to give the movie a distinct sense of audible identity that expands with the movie’s progression. Because of this, many of the compositions sound initially familiar with one another, but quickly disperse in ways that adds complexity to the ominously echoing volume pulse that remains a constant throughout the entirety of the picture. It very much reminds me of Vangelus’s work in the “Blade Runner” soundtrack, in that it audibly illustrates a unique spin through electronic keyboards that speaks wonders to the continued evolution of the technological age, all the while humbling it with ominous horns and percussion instruments that distinctly captures the moody consistency of the monotonous characters and situations aboard. It solidifies one of my favorite musical scores of the year, and makes me eager to hear it on repeat now that I’ve bought it immediately after hearing it.
– Ruthless material. Classifying this movie as rated-R is the understatement of the year. Drenched with a barrage of blood and vitriol violence that never shies away from what it’s depicting, Cronenberg’s exploitative nature has a way of settling underneath your skin, and producing no shortage of brunts and blows that are paced apart accordingly enough to never feel repetitive. This attention given to the violence inflicted is meant to articulate Tasya’s diminishing empathy as the film persists, giving us a method for the mayhem that even made this horror hound blush a few times. On top of this, there are a few sex scenes in the movie that actually prescribe meaning to the psychosis of Tasya’s enveloping of her victim’s body, and further play into the mental haze that occasionally seeps into the reality that she can’t clearly define between bodies. It gives a purpose to the avenues of violent exploration that the movie chalantly pursues, and definitely solidifies the version I saw as the uncut director’s cut that was heavily promoted.
– Masterful editing. In Cronenberg immersing us to Tasya’s terror each time she invades the consciousness of her prey, he treats us to some aesthetically pleasing sequences stitched together at the hands of some top notch editing. Aside from the imagery being terrifyingly cryptic with an outline of danger and urgency presiding over it, it’s the rapid fire sequencing that bleeds into one another that harvests a stylistically creative approach to the memories of two bodies converging as one, giving us a transformation that is being realized before our very eyes. Aside from these special sequences, the patience and plodding of the editing for the rest of the movie was much appreciated in keeping as much momentum in the heat of each frame as possible, all the while playing into the slow and hypnotic movements of the alien imagery included. Textbook editing at its finest form.
– Unique effects. It’s such a rarity anymore to find exceptional effects work done in the practical realm of creativity, but that’s exactly what we have for the majority in “Possessor”. Cronenberg uses a lot of in-camera work, particularly with that of the hallucination sequences, which resonates a superhuman encompassing with as many speed tricks behind the lens as possible. Aside from this, the prosthetics work done towards a deformed mask, as seen on the movie’s promotional poster, feels like a three-dimensional throwback to the Tom Savini and Tobe Hooper days of detailed prosthetics work, complete with a rubbery texture that allows it to bend to the influence of the sagging face design as intended. It proves that practical work is still the way to go towards attaining a level of believability with effects that interacts within the dimensions of these actors, and showcases much to love about its element here that bends reality as much as the mind-bending aspect of the material.
– Unpredictable. There isn’t a better word in the English language to summarize everything I just saw. Particularly is the case in the climax of the movie, that not only proves that every character is expendable but also influenced a twisting conclusion that firmly kept me invested to the finish line. Twists? Yes, Revelations? Absolutely, gruesome imagery? As much as you can handle. Even the dialogue isn’t heavy handed and meandering to the point that forcefully spoon-feeds its audience, instead unpeeling each layer of discovery with the same level of spontaneity attained in real life. It’s that rare case in a movie where the very best moments are saved for the final emphasis meant to remind you of the time you previously had, and with everything included with Cronenberg’s fearless style of filmmaking, it alludes to the idea that this is truly one of the best and most mesmerizing films that I have seen all year.
– Weakest link. For my money, the second act of this movie is inferior to the near perfect bookend acts that not only have the best material of everything included, but also move the story’s pacing along smoother in a way that compliments the consistency of the film. There is some importance to the second act of the movie, mainly with Tasya’s initial possession of her newfound body that sets the rules and precedent of the mission at hand, but in my opinion I wish the movie expanded more on the rules and business aspect of this secret corporation, especially that of its cryptic orchestrater (Played by the great Jennifer Jason Leigh) who the movie abandons and never truly fleshes out in a way that cements her as either having honorable intentions or corporate greed. In addition to this, I wish the curtain was pulled back overall on where this organization existed and thrived when compared to the rest of the world illustrated in the movie. It’s an intentionally mysterious organization, yes, but the lack of clarity with the audience makes it especially difficult to properly invest in a side of characters in the film’s morale dilemma, making my emotional investment one of great ambiguity.
My Grade: 9/10 or A