Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore feature is Possessor, a gruesome sci-fi thriller starring Andrea Riseborough as Tasya, an agent working for an underground assassin organisation that uses technology to inhabit people’s bodies. After an opening sequence to establish how the technology works, the film primarily centres on one mission that requires Tasya to inhabit the body of wealthy Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott).
Tasya is the agency’s best assassin, but the trauma from her work slips into her every day, visually battered by the things she has seen. There is no real defining factor of reality, and she walks around in a constant daze, rehearsing conversations before having them, reminding herself of a seemingly lost autonomy.
Possessor is not for the faint of heart. It is unashamedly cringe-worthy, with
transcendent imagery that requires you to remind yourself to breathe after spending so long recoiling at its gratuitous nature. The film is grisly from the first frame and almost unwatchable for those with a weak stomach. There’s a perverse tactility of blood, and it arguably overwhelms the entire film. Cronenberg has most certainly centred in on the shock-factor, pulling the most outlandish stunts he can throughout the film.
The violence may demand your attention, but amidst the maniacal chaos, there is an intricate plot that requires a level of attention that is sometimes difficult to administer. It feels as though this was secondary to the film’s visuals, executed by Rupert Lazarus, the film’s production designer and Karim Hussain, its cinematographer. It is incredibly stylish, and the world has been well-realised, but there is a level of disconnect that makes it challenging to engage with on occasions.
There are well-crafted performances from the film’s leads that display Cronenberg’s understanding to convey his vision to his collaborators. Riseborough and Abbott have done a fabulous job of building a cohesive portrayal of the same character, and there are plenty of twist-and-turns for them to showcase this in.
It has most certainly landed a following from its debut at London Film Festival, and it’s sure to be a favourite of those who enjoyed his previous work, as well as his father’s but its fixation on carnage, isolates an entire audience, which was perhaps entirely intended.