Possessor (2020)
December 13, 2020 3:58 AM - Subscribe

Possessor follows an agent who works for a secretive organization that uses brain-implant technology to inhabit other people's bodies - ultimately driving them to commit assassinations for high-paying clients.

Rotten Tomatoes - 93% Tomatometer & 59% Audience Score

The Guardian review - Possessor will doubtless prove too gleefully gory for some audiences and too oblique for others, like a half-remembered dream, full of ellipses, open-ended questions and violent eruptions. Like its twisted antiheroine, I’m just eager to go back in.

Independent review - This remains an entertaining techno thriller, however, led by actors whose mere presence does the leg work whenever Cronenberg’s script falters.
posted by slimepuppy (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I thought this was excellent. Brutal and mesmerising with incredible central performances. Actors playing characters playing other characters is a tough act to pull off and Abbott and Riseborough give compelling performances throughout. The layers of performance and blurring of identities and mental states is something else.

As mentioned in the Kermode review, going for physical effects instead of CGI makes such a difference to the overall feel of the movie.

The violence is intense and the ultimate story is utterly bleak which combined with the abstract hallucinatory visuals and general weirdness, this is decidedly not for everyone so the low audience score on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't surprise. I'd say your feelings on Brandon Cronenberg's previous film Antiviral are probably a good guide on whether this will appeal or not.

There's some generally gruesome stuff throughout (from violence to body horror), but I feel there's one sequence at the very end that needs a special warning. (Mods/anyone, if there's a better way to do this, please do let me know.)

*Spoilery trigger warning about one bit of violence at the end presented in ROT13 encryption*: N puvyq vf ivbyragyl fubg gb qrngu ba-fperra.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:44 AM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


I read about this in the Absolute Bleeding Edge newsletter put out by Metafilter's own maxsparber and it sounded fascinating, in that studied, upsetting way I haven't seen from Cronenberg père in a while. I loved Riseborough in Mandy, so I'm looking forward to this, even if serious violence and body horror are not my thing.
posted by heteronym at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2020


Absolutely loved this! Great filmmaking, the blurring of mental states (and minds in general) was so well done by Cronenberg and the actors. (The key to keeping oriented is noting whether Colin has a New Yawk accent or not.)

It is a little strange that Vos is a specialist in possessing other people, and is even called a great actor by her boss,* but when confronted, she just stammers and stalls instead of improvising masterfully.

Regarding the awful thing hidden behind ROT13 above, I want to point out that it was not gratuitous or done only for shock value, but is rather the ultimate and necessary resolution of a couple of story arcs. As slimepuppy says, this movie is fucking bleak.

* Watching this, I couldn’t help imagine that every time Cronenberg offered direction to Jennifer Jason Leigh, she would launch into an anecdote that began, “When I was doing ExistenZ with your father, he...”
posted by ejs at 3:21 PM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


A strong entry into that special category of films which I thought incredibly impressive, I'm glad I saw, and will never watch again for as long I live.
posted by EatTheWeak at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


Possessor felt a little unrealized to me. It had a lot of interesting ideas and themes that didn't get explored as much as I would have liked. You don't really notice when you are watching because the performances are really good and the cold, clinical style of the film pulls you in despite the slow pace. That said, when your main complaint is that you wanted more then it must be doing something right.

I'm interested to see what Brandon Cronenberg does next, but I really hope he does something outside of horror/thriller territory. I like that he is carrying on the Cronenberg torch, but I want to see what he can do and how he grows as a director before he returns to that well again.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:15 PM on December 13, 2020 [3 favorites]


Along with the clearly.. erm, Cronenbergian influences of the film, I saw a massive presence of PKD's themes as well. The concept of identity crisis caused by wearing personas as sleeves, spiraling into a self-regarding fugue while trying to grapple with the schism between seeming and being... very much Dick's vibe across the board.

(also, Scaredy Matt aka Thought Slime has a great review that delves into the economic critiques of the film on his channel Scaredy Cats)
posted by FatherDagon at 5:26 AM on December 14, 2020 [1 favorite]


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