Possessor | ‘Pull me out!’ – Brandon Cronenberg’s body-hacking killing for profit sci-fi is a mind-bending original

After an eight-year break, writer-director Brandon Cronenberg returns with another searing sci-fi that landed him two awards, Best Director and Best Film, at Spain’s 53rd Sitges Film Festival in 2020. 

Possessor tracks corporate assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) who hacks into people’s bodies to execute high-level targets using brain-implant technology. Intelligent and extremely violent, it’s a mind-bending sci-fi puzzle with a very dark heart.  

Kicking off, all-guns-blazing, a young woman in a blue tracksuit viciously stabs to death a prominent lawyer during a corporate function. It’s just another day at the office for Vos, Trematon’s No.1 assassin. But something’s amiss, as the host was able to stop Vos from using the required retrieval method: suicide. 

Vos’ handler, Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), worries that with each new host’s body she inhabits, Vos is becoming detached from her own identity. She believes that only by being free of all human attachments can she excel in her job and take her place at the top of the table. And that includes destroying any remnants of feeling she may have for her estranged husband, Micheal (Rossif Sutherland) and son, Ira.  

Her latest assignment puts her to the test. Vos agrees to take a hit on John Parse (Sean Bean), the CEO of a data-mining corporation that Trematon wants control of, and his daughter Ava (Tuppence Middleton), via Ava’s fiancé, Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott).

Again the assignment goes awry as Colin damages the implant, which leaves Vos’ consciousness stuck and the now fugitive from justice Colin experiencing fragmented memories of her life. What follows is an internal battle of wills.

In drawing on his own struggles with identity, Cronenberg has created a scenario that is deeply personal and uses the sci-fi construct for some fascinating psychological explorations – ‘Is it possible to maintain a sense of self, and what is that?’; while the graphic violence on display could be read as the kind of cathartic release for Cronenberg (SPOILER: Sean Bean’s eye-gorging, teeth-spitting demise is especially squirm-worthy). 

When I first saw Possessor, my head hurt trying to work out what and who was who. But a second viewing (and viewing some of the extras) helped me to really appreciate Cronenberg’s vision. I also love his alternate reality world, part-retro, part-futuristic; highly-stylised, and minimal: it’s every inch his creation. And those yellow, blue and red filters just screamed Roger Corman, Mario Bava and Dario Argento. I’ll be watching this again!

Possessor is out on Digital via Amazon Prime on 1 February and Blu-ray and DVD on 8 February from Signature Pictures

Special Features

• Deleted Scenes

• A Heightened World: The Look of Possessor: Brandon Cronenburg, production designer Rupert Lazarus, cinematographer Karim Hussain, special effects designer Dan Martin and actors Christopher Abbott and Andrea Riseborough look at the visual approach in creating the film’s intricate alternate 2008 universe.

• Identity Crisis: Bringing Possessor to Life: Cronenberg and the cast look at how the director explores psychological themes through a science fiction narrative, and how Andrea and Christopher worked together on sharing the same role.

 The Joy of Practical: The Effects of Possessor: Look at the film’s mainly on-set special effects. This one contains spoilers, so don’t watch this before you have seen the movie. The best thing is seeing Sean Bean’s body lifecast. 

• Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You (dir. Brandon Cronenberg, 10min, 2019): An institutionalised woman with a brain implant describes her dreams to a psychiatrist. Using the same effects and filters used in Possessor, this heavily stylised short effectively turns wigs, sticky fruit cake and blemishes into the stuff of nightmares.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on February 6, 2021, in Canadian, Must See, Must-See, Sci-Fi and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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