Film review Possessor (18)
PUBLISHED: 10:16 19 November 2020 | UPDATED: 10:16 19 November 2020
Son of David, Brandon Cronenberg has come of age with a disturbing, startling body horror movie about personality hijacking by an assassin to get close to her prey
Now that the son has taken over the family business, I wonder how the Cronenberg family Thanksgiving dinner will go? Will father David tousle son Brandon’s hair, congratulate him on his latest film and for producing a dispassionate body horror concept that touches on any number of contemporary fears without being too blatantly or obviously metaphoric.
Perhaps he’ll smile wryly and reminisce that back in the 70s, when he was making his second film, he was sticking a virus spreading, blood-drinking prosthetic penis under porn star Marilyn Chamber’s armpit, rather than inflicting gruesome indignities on a quality international cast.
Or does he take him aside and say, “Son, I think you’re trying too hard.”
In Possessor, Brandon surely gives the old man a lesson in graphic. The violence is brutal and extreme, but then so is everything else. Numerous moments will jolt you in your seat, or have you wincing and averting your eyes from the screen.
It’s that bit more disturbing because the presentation is so calm: both father and son Cronenberg know better than to get worked up over sex and violence. The conceit here is the ultimate invasion of privacy: a personality hijack in which an assassin is injected into an unwitting host body to get close to the target.
Once inside, they have to give a performance as that person. It’s like a sociopathic Being John Malkovich.
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Riseborough is the exotically-named expert assassin Tasya Vos who is beginning to get frazzled by the work, but commits to one last lucrative assignment.
The target is tech billionaire Bean, and the route to him is through hijacking the drably-named Colin Tate, (Abbot) the disgruntled boyfriend of Bean’s daughter (Middleton.)
Casting Sean Bean as the CEO of a Canadian tech company is a fine example of Cronenberg’s counter-intuitive approach. Digital effects are eschewed, with nearly everything done in-camera. The visuals are a form of cold-hearted psychedelia; trippy but sombre.
It feels sharply contemporary but is set, apparently, in an alternate 2008. Like its main character, the film has an amazing fluidity, touching on themes like data mining, non-binary gender identity, and even the nature of acting.
Some of the visualisations of the ideas aren’t quite strong enough, but overall this is startling stuff, disturbing from start to finish.
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Rossif Sutherland and Jennifer Jason Leigh. On digital platforms from Signature Entertainment. Running time: 103 mins
Got to www.halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of documentary Crock Of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan.
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