Sundance 2020 – Possessor

As soon as Possessor ended, I could not wait to get home and go to sleep so that I could dream about this film. Writer/Director Brandon Cronenberg, son of legendary auteur David Cronenberg, is definitely his father’s son. He shares a similar taste for the bloody relationship between eroticism and body horror, check out Brandon’s first film Antiviral, it’s good and establishes him right out of the gate that he is who he is. With Possessor now, he is officially a talent that will have me excited for anything he does.

Possessor follows Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), an agent for a company that uses brain-implant technology to hijack the minds of normal people to have them carry out corporate assassinations. Vos is considered the best in her field, but finds her mind fraying on her latest job, possessing Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), and a sort of psychic warfare between the two of them takes place. 

Andrea Riseborough has become one of my favorite actresses over the past few years. She is magnificent here playing somebody who finds a strange comfort in inhabiting others, struggling to retain control over her own reality. A particularly effective character moment finds her rehearsing what she’s going to say to her own family after a mission to try to regain knowledge of what her own self is like with others. I always love watching Christopher Abbott, he gives a unique turn as somebody who is only pretending to be him. Welcome turns by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean and Tuppence Middleton elevate the supporting roles.

The cinematography by Karim Hussain is divine. There is rare a shot in this film not soaked in some sort of gel color, further enhancing the feel of this world. Each shot feels deliberate here, they’re not just settling for coverage in how they pace this thing out. The score by Jim Williams is a wonder. An ethereal work of synths that devolves into a nightmare. I want to take a hot shower in it. This film is incredibly violent and bloody, but it’s all just so gorgeous at the same time. The fact that everything you see was done via practical effects instead of CGI is mightily impressive. If it wasn’t so damn well done, the violence and gore would be unbearable. There are truly shocking images, but it earns them.

The production design is just delicious. Whatever the budget was, they made every dollar go a long way. You get sucked into the world of this film immediately. It’s a quasi-present just a few steps away from our own. This world feels lived in and authentic with all its own tiny peculiarities, little things from different decades are peppered in to skew our perception of when this might be taking place. Cronenberg is confident enough to show you just enough of this world for you to buy in. 

It’s truly a blessing to have another Cronenberg that’s just as an authentic artist as his father. This is no case of talentless nepotism. He is the real deal, and you should take note. Possessor will absolutely remain one of my favorite films this year.

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