It’s difficult to have a firm opinion on a film like Possessor after only one viewing.
The sophomore feature from writer/director Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral) — son of the great David Cronenberg — is based around a simple premise: a secret agent who uses brain control technology to influence others to commit assassinations. As the film progresses, Cronenberg’s seemingly boundless ambition complicates matters, resulting in a handful of pacing and plot issues, but the overall mind-bending and bloody cinematic experience is a memorable one.
The aforementioned secret agent is Tasya Vos, portrayed by the always magnetic Andrea Riseborough (Mandy; Birdman). She’s described as the “star performer” by her boss, the brain-invading agency’s director (Jennifer Jason Leigh, exuding her trademark chilliness). Tasya’s violent work and how it affects her home life prove to be some of the strongest elements of the film.
Sadly, the good times come to a sudden halt when our hero first takes control of a young man named Colin (Christopher Abbott, It Comes at Night). While Abbott’s performance of a man trying to regain control of his abducted mind is tremendous, witnessing Tasya’s inept attempts to fit into his social circles proves quite tedious — especially after the film’s thrilling opening possession sequence.
Sandwiched between a strong start and finish, the film’s laborious middle stretch is a frustrating detour. But even in the film’s weaker moments, Cronenberg’s clinical direction — which occasionally echoes David Fincher — and the sumptuous cinematography from Karim Hussain (NBC’s “Hannibal”) will undoubtedly hold most viewers’ attention.
Making good on its initial promise, Possessor culminates in a challenging finale that’s sure to be a hot topic of debate for genre fanatics for months or even years to come. However, no matter what you make of the conclusion, it’s a shocking and violent coda to this dark, twisted tale of lost humanity.
Available to rent starting Nov. 6 via Amazon Video, iTunes and other streaming services