“Possessor” is set in a world where it is possible to transfer your consciousness into someone else’s body and take over that person — “possess” them, if you will. This is achieved via medical implants in the head, and the person being possessed usually has not consented to it. That this comes from writer-director Brandon Cronenberg, son of body-horror master David Cronenberg, gives us some idea of where things are going.
Our heroine, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), works for a shadowy organization that carries out assassinations in this fashion: have the hitperson possess someone, kill the target, then commit suicide (whereupon the possessor comes back to her own body, safe and sound in the lab). Tasya is the best in the business, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to live as other people, even briefly, without their minds leaking into hers.
The present job has her inhabiting the body of Christopher Abbott, thus fulfilling a long-held dream of mine. His name is Colin, and the target is his fiancee’s father (Sean Bean). Vos plans to spend a couple days in Colin establishing erratic behavior so his murder-suicide of his future father-in-law will make some sense. But in the meantime, Colin starts to gain control of the intruder in his head.
Abbott is really impressive, especially in the later parts of the film when he’s wrestling between two identities. Riseborough has less screen time, but her initial presence is so strong that we can imagine it’s still her even when it’s Abbott (which is also a tribute to Abbott’s abilities). The movie’s premise isn’t exactly unique, but Cronenberg’s sterile, calculated style and a few ingenious variations make it compelling, if completely nihilistic.
And graphic? Hoo boy, yeah. Gratuitously so. When Tasya Vos gets inside a body and goes a-killin’, she really goes to town. She usually has a gun, but she prefers to stab you a thousand times. She loves her job, and Cronenberg loves showing her loving her job. It’s like they say, when you love your job you never work a day in your life.
B (1 hr., 43 min.; )