Brandon Cronenberg’s ‘Possessor’ Is A Wild, Tech-Fueled Fever Dream [Sundance Review]

The Playlist | 1/26/2020 | Robert Daniels
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Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is a deadly contract killer, who works for a secretive biotech company run by a former hired gun Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The organization carries out their kills by kidnapping a victim, usually someone personally close to their real target, and inserting an implant into their brain; after which, an agent takes over that person’s mind and body. Through their hosts, the assassin can commit deadly acts against paid hitsec without impunity. Son of legendary filmmaker David, Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore feature, “Possessor,” is a bloody existential fever dream that, at its best, is unnerving and thrilling, and, at its worst, is tiring and misbegotten.

The melding of two minds, in its basic format, is parasitic. And in some fashion, the mechanics mirror Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Vos, as a person, shakes under a fractured psyche. She needs objects—the sniff of a grandfather’s pipe or a framed butterfly—to remember who she is. Moreover, even when she is home, Vos needs even more cognitive exercises. She often practices delivering basic human greetings to her husband and son, making her existence performative. These are glitches caused by her work, and glitches that should decommission her from the field.

Assignment - Girder - Head - Data - Mining

Nevertheless, when offered, she takes on a new high-paying assignment when Girder is approached to kill the head of a Data Mining Company John Parse (Sean Bean). Parse’s brother wants him murdered so he can take over. To do so, Vos must infiltrate the mind of Parse’s soon-to-be son-in-law Colin (Christopher Abbott). He’ll act as the host for the kill, and in return, Girder will receive not only a sizable payment but stock in the company too.

Like an episode of “Black Mirror,” “Possessor” views technology as evil. On one hand, there’s the machine Vos uses to join her conscious with Colin, but on...
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