Possessor Review – BFI London Film Festival
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Rossif Sutherland, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, and Jennifer Jason Leigh
Writer and director Brandon Cronenberg starts as he means to go on in his new sci-fi horror Possessor; immediately shocking audiences with graphic scenes of body horror within the opening moments of his film.
His second feature film, after debut Antiviral, stars Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott in a story which follows a secret organisation using brain implant technology to control other people’s bodies.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Bean also bring their star power to the screen in smaller supporting roles, but does this film have enough substance in its story to possess audiences to make it a success?
This Might Hurt a Little
The film’s shocking but strong opening really does set the tone of the film from the get-go.
After this visceral start and once the premise of the film becomes clear you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re watching the latest episode of Black Mirror.
Fans of Charlie Brooker’s anthology series should really enjoy Possessor as it feels like a mixture of it and Leigh Whannell’s sci-fi hit Upgrade.
The eye-popping violence and body horror keeps on coming throughout the running time resulting in some truly difficult to watch moments and in doing so pushing the boundaries of what its audience will be able to manage.
However, there is more to this film than just graphic violence and body horror, it has an engaging narrative at its core too, and it’s the combination of these elements that make it such a wild ride for viewers.
Its future tech content honing in on data gathering and privacy feels eerily near to a reality we’re already living in and actually manages to ground this sci-fi story in what feels like the terrifying truths of this modern age.
There’s Two Sides to Every Story
The film’s cast elevates the narrative material even further with Riseborough’s excellent performance helping to convey her enigmatic character well and providing the film with an intriguing protagonist.
However, Abbott feels like he’s given equal billing in the proceedings due to the narrative circumstances that sees Riseborough’s character inhabit Abbotts’ thanks to the technology of the organisation she works for.
The way in which this premise unfolds is fascinating as it’s able to present a dual narrative for both characters that develops simultaneously.
As Riseborough controls Abbott from the inside both her and the audience learn more and more about him as the film progresses.
This clever storytelling tactic gives the narrative a multitude of layers which enhances the viewing experience, weaving a thrilling thread of character development through the minds of the audience as well as through the characters themselves.
Like Father, Like Son
So whilst Possessor feels familiar in some of its ideas, its style and execution feel wholly original and exciting.
The leading cast, backed up by the strong screen presence of the supporting stars, give their all to this narrative and help it reach for its full potential.
It holds nothing back when it comes to the more gruesome elements of its story and action, creating soon to be much talked about moments of body horror that will go down in the genre’s history.
It’s a remarkable effort that will prove to be an important milestone in Cronenberg’s career and hopefully serve as a benchmark for what we can expect in the future from this creative force.
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