Cinema Review: Possessor | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  


Studio: Neon
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg

Oct 07, 2020 Web Exclusive
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There’s an unavoidable barrier for Brandon Cronenberg to overcome. Though the beneficiary of nepotism, Brandon Cronenberg’s films will face comparisons to his father’s work for perhaps his entire career. I know, woe is him. Son of an auteur, crafting out a filmmaking career for himself, Brandon Cronenberg must tackle this barrier. Or must he? His debut film Antiviral and follow up Possessor seemingly follow in the footsteps of his father. The paternal influence apparent in viciously inventive body horror, neat social critique and cold, troubled protagonists, Brandon may be in danger of copying his father's style. But who cares if he’s going to make films this enjoyable?

Possessor opens with a brutal, gratuitous murder. A young woman working as a hostess at a fancy party walks up to a sharp dressed man, enjoying the benefits of attending such a lavish soiree, and repeatedly stabs him in the stomach. Once the room is emptied by the crime, the young woman puts a gun to her mouth but seems unable to pull the trigger, though seemingly eager to do so. Luckily, she’s aided by armed officers of the law who do the job for her, only for her to wake up as Andrea Riseborough.

Riseborough’s character, Tasya Vos, is an assassin. She works for a company that uses brain implants to occupy the bodies of people made into unwitting murderers, so that agents can assassinate targets without jeopardizing their identities. It’s a sleek idea that Cronenberg uses to get the most out of his cast.

When Riseborough takes over the body of Colin (Christopher Abbott), she’s ordered to take out Colin’s wealthy father-in-law, John Parse (Sean Bean), and his daughter, Colin’s wife, Ava (Tuppence Middleton). It’s at this point, diving into Abbott’s fragile mind, that Possessor becomes truly nightmarish. Pulling and twisting at Riseborough’s new reality, a distorted vision of both herself and a man overcome by his own inadequacies produces a near uninhabitable body for both parties. As Colin begins to gain an awareness of his possessor, it makes Riseborough’s job more difficult than the seasoned assassin needs it to be.

Battling disenfranchisement from her job, a broken family life with her husband and son, and the inability to follow through on the work she is renowned for, Riseborough’s troubles add a depth to her that often isn’t afforded to the cold hearted killer.

Her run-ins with the equally troubled Colin produces a conflict that both actors pull off brilliantly. Abbott’s performance in particular is a careful balance of searing headache, viscerally agitated imprisonment and a gradual loss of hope.

Cronenberg may always be answering to the work of his father, and with film’s like Possessor there’s good reason for comparisons to be made. That said, none of what is on show here should simply be considered footsteps followed. Possessor possesses more than enough craft and genuine horror rarely seen in modern cinema that Brandon Cronenberg can justify a claim to being more than just his father’s son.


Author rating: 8/10

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