In Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is an assassin who enters her targets’ minds in order to kill them. Though her work is remote (relevant in 2020, in the most sinister of ways) she is finding that aspects of it are beginning to challenge her own sense of self. Despite this, she is pushed into a difficult job by her frighteningly severe boss Girder (a terrifying Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Cronenberg’s camera drifts over dramatic architectural shapes and mirrored surfaces, when it’s not lingering on Riseborough’s eyes and pained expression. The dystopian near-future of Posssessor is full of colour, glass, bright light and oppressive shadows. It is familiar and yet always just out of reach, never fully comprehensible, as if we are glimpsing an subtly alternate universe. It is deeply eerie and yet beautiful to behold.

The synthwave aesthetic and huge high-rises are set against strangely anachronistic technology – flip phones are carried alongside vapes, pagers and old cars are used and yet so are mind-controlling assassins. It’s an enchanting piece of world-building, design and cinematography. The details are sumptuous, and the performances are just as perfectly balanced, with Tas and her target Colin’s mental duals played deftly by Christopher Abbott.

As original as it is, the drive of the first half begins to falter towards the end of the film, and though there is plenty to absorb on screen, the internal struggle between Tas and Colin does not quite reach the audience with the clarity of the first half, leaving viewers somewhat adrift in its nightmare universe.

While the aesthetic and setting make comparisons to Blade Runner and Mandy apt, Possessor stands alone in its original and twisted story. For all its many strengths, the pacing and storytelling leave a little to be desired – but there’s plenty here to get a sublime science-fiction thrill from.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean

DIRECTOR: Brandon Cronenberg

WRITER: Brandon Cronenberg

SYNOPSIS: In a dystopian future, assassin Tasya Vos uses brain-implant technology to enter the minds and bodies of her targets, in order to commit high-stakes murder against a backdrop of a sinister world.