Possessor Movie Review
From Brandon Cronenberg comes a movie that might as well have been made by his dad. Possessor is a weird, twisted journey into the mind, a visual trip that looks like the real deal but feels like a hollowed our version of something better that never entirely materializes.
Andrea Riseborough plays a troubled woman who works for a secretive agency that takes over other people’s minds to carry out assassinations. After years of this work, the mental strain causes her to begin to lose control, leaving her trapped in the body of a man she has possessed (Christopher Abbott).
Think Inception, only with less visual effects, more gore, and a much, much, much darker tone.
The marketing for Possessor, and perhaps the title itself, implies a much more terrifying experience than what this film is; it’s a psychological thriller with a surprisingly straightforward plot, though which direction it will turn and what kind of indie, artsy or gruesome spin Cronenberg will throw at you next keeps things unpredictable. What’s blurry is how much of that unpredictability is due to the story itself, or just the fancy and often practical visuals to throw you off the scent.
Possessor does look and feel like a movie from a different age, a la a David Cronenberg movie from the 80s, and there is some appeal to that. While perhaps unfair, there are times where the movie feels like mimicry, as if son Brandon is unable to separate his talents, or style, from his father’s.
Regardless, as impressive as many of Possessor’s elements are, the movie ultimately lands in the “style over substance” category, not that its plot isn’t compelling or that its characters—the tortured Risenborough and the tormented Abbott—aren’t intriguing. The problem is the movie becomes obfuscated by its indie aesthetics, to where Cronenberg sometimes loses sight of what really matters, similar to how his protagonist (arguably the antagonist) loses sight of reality.
This may all just be a nebulous way of saying Possessor never entirely clicked with me, even though Cronenberg clearly has talent and there is much to enjoy, or at least appreciate, about this strange, somewhat psychedelic thriller. The ending, by the way, doesn’t click either, even though it’s fucked up in a way that should be satisfying. The climax isn’t fully earned, as if it all worked in Cronenberg’s head but he didn’t put everything necessary to lead up to that moment to film.
Possessor should be respected for its originality, creativity, and twisted, compelling story. That doesn’t mean you, or I, need to like it. Still, fans of dark, somewhat surreal thrillers should definitely check it out.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.