Written by: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton
Some professions require more out of you than others from what you have to do on the field and back at home. However, not many professions come with what gets required from being a killer for hire as appears to be the case as shown in Possessor. A film utilizing an incredibly intriguing concept but gets overshadowed by the distinct lack of humanity through its narrative and within the characters followed.
Operating as an assassin, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) utilizes a technology that allows her to control another person’s body to carry out the hits and ends the manipulation by committing suicide. With the latest contract to kill an important CEO, when trying to carry out the hit, she faces some complications leading to the man she controls beginning to fight back mentally.
Undoubtedly, the concept of Possessor carries similarities to other science-fiction works into how people control themselves and the ways in which they can be manipulated. On this level, the film certainly finds success because the method of killing utilized by Tasya not only results in the loss of life of the target but also the unknowing person she takes over. This means the individuals impacted expand beyond where the paycheck comes from, thus adding more tragedy to what this job entails. In the process of taking over the person, Tasya watches them and learns what it takes to portray them all the way down to the little ticks they have. Yes, standard for what one would expect, but the personal struggle Tasya faces comes from when she begins to lose her own humanity with the number of times she infiltrates others.
When it gets to the point where she needs to look at pictures and other symbols to remember how to be herself along with having a husband and child, this asks many incisive questions about the human mind and what it can take. However, the film also seemingly struggles with the presentation of everything happening with the most recent man she takes over, Colin (Christopher Abbott). When thinking of the larger implications of what occurs in the narrative, it feels well thought out, but the execution of it all strips away any sense of genuine emotion that ultimately leaves for a cold experience overall. Even if the characters we follow do not have the characteristics of heroes, there still needs to be some element about any of them for the audience to care about. In this film’s pursuit to drain humanity out of Tasya through her job, it inadvertently does the same to any sort of connection we can have. It could have been intentional, but it certainly does not have the desired impact.
As one would expect with a job involving killing people, plenty of death gets captured here and with Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg at the helm, if he took anything from his father it certainly proved to be the gore. In several moments in this film, it depicts sequences of pain and anguish displayed in grotesque fashion, but it does not always come with a sense of purpose. Not to compare Brandon to his father but David’s films always have violence and gore laced with reason throughout the story but the same cannot be said with what Brandon creates in Possessor. Yes, he presents these moments in a visually intricate manner, but in the end without attaching much emotional connection to these characters or meaning behind the violence, it simply becomes an exercise in showing gore in cool ways. This could certainly be attractive to some but definitely does not fall into my wheelhouse.
The end result of this feature comes as a disappointment because of the incredible potential found in the feature. Anyone who has read my reviews knows my favorite film genre will always be science-fiction because of the concepts it can bring to reality, much like what this film attempts to do. However, an important element to any story is the characters and the two followed in this feature simply feel like passengers rather than actual people we’re meant to actually care for. This certainly does not take away from the performance from individuals like Christopher Abbott and Sean Bean, who particularly turn in a devilishly arrogant role. In the grand scheme it feels like a simulation of programs combating with each other rather than people, which may work well for some, as has been proven but leaves me with nothing but a cold and empty feeling.