Brandon Cronenberg’s POSSESSOR (2020, Google Play) excels at visual style, a powerful and immersive atmosphere, and an amazing cast including Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Nonetheless, in my opinion it fails to live up to its intriguing premise.
The story stems from a corporation that hires out assassins to high-paying clients. Tasya is one of them, and she remotely inhabits other people’s consciousness to commit the assassinations. She’s given a big job to inhabit a man and kill a CEO before turning the gun on himself. But things go wrong.
It’s a premise with enormous possibilities. Remote assassination, a woman in a man’s body, hiding not just in plain sight but right in front of somebody you are going to kill–there’s a lot of intriguing stuff here, though much of it is goes unexplored. Where POSSESSOR shines is in its atmosphere and world building. It’s a nicely imagined alternate world, the visual style is artistic, and the atmosphere is moody and immersive.
Where it lost me was the characters. Maybe it was just me, but it felt like the film didn’t mind creating an emotional distance between me and the major characters, and as a result I didn’t care about Tasya, and I didn’t care about the man she inhabited. Without more than a marginal character arc or even basic investment, I looked to the plot to move things along, but the pacing is very slow, and plot wraps up while leaving a lot of potential story on the table. The film is spiced with ample, graphic body horror and gore, so over the top I found it discordant and indulgent.
So in the end I kind of liked POSSESSOR for its strengths, but I didn’t connect with it in any meaningful way aside from its artistic direction, solid acting, and for what I wished it had been. It’s getting rave reviews, so maybe it’s just me, but this one was a beautiful swing but a miss for me.