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  Possessor Not Feeling Herself
Year: 2020
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Rossif Sutherland, Raoul Baneja, Kaniehtiio Horn, Deragh Campbell, Dorren Lee, Gage-Graham Arbuthnot, Gabrielle Graham, Megan Vincent, Rachael Crawford
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: A hostess (Gabrielle Graham) goes to a function to attend to the guests, but something is wrong, she is behaving oddly as if she is not quite understanding what is expected of her. So when she enters the main hall and admires a knife at the buffet table, then picks it up and walks over to a certain guest, nobody could have anticipated what she does next: starts stabbing the blade into the body of the man until he is dead and soaked in his own blood. Then she takes a gun she had with her and makes a move to commit suicide with it, yet somehow cannot bring herself to do so - the cops arriving on the scene solve that issue as they pump bullets into her, killing her.

Well, that was a short film - oh, no, it's just the beginning as the real protagonist is Tasya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough looking more ghostly than ever, who is an assassin who by use of a brain implant and mysterious machine can enter the minds of her surrogates, take over their bodies and use them to murder the real targets of her bosses' schemes. We've all seen the basic female assassin yarns before, they're usually dressed up to the nines and supercool, often in high heels to complement the barrels of their pistols, and invariably sexually attractive to the audience to generate some heat for watching the traditionally demure, supposedly sensitive gender get up to killings.

Tasya isn't like that. She spends most of the movie lying down on a bed, with a curiously analogue piece of technology over her head, so that it's a man who is acting on her orders, the boyfriend of a rich businessman's daughter. The businessman is the target (he's Sean Bean, so obviously someone is out to kill him), but along the way the future will not look rosy for boyfriend Colin (Christopher Abbott) nor girlfriend Ava (Tuppence Middleton), though not perhaps in the manner you might be awaiting, given the opening five minutes of writer and director Brandon Cronenberg's film. He was, as is always brought up when mentioning him, the son of Canadian cult director David Cronenberg.

Would this be the movie to help Brandon stand on his own two feet, apart from his famous father? Eh, probably not, it shared his obsession with dangerous technology as well as his propensity for transgressive sex and violence (and one could argue, transgender sex and violence, seeing as how Tasya gets it on with Ava while enjoying the feeling of having a penis to have intercourse with). It was more the bloodshed that the story was interested in, however, and there was plenty of it, with some of the most gruesome activities to test the boundaries of the top end rating systems (it had to be edited down in the United States for going too far - other territories had the full strength version to entertain them, or not, as the case may be). Yet there was a dispassionate, distantly observant tone no matter how much claret was spilled.

Tasya is suffering mental health issues thanks to how confusing her experiences at work are to her psyche, as what she really wants to do is settle down with her young son, now in the custody of his father, but there seems to be something addictive about the sensations of being someone else that keeps stopping her saying "enough". Jennifer Jason Leigh (from dad's eXistenZ) was her mentor, guiding her through her mission remotely, but really no help when in a strange reversal of mental illness tropes, Tasya's problem is that she CANNOT commit suicide, the very act she needs to do to snap back to her own body again (quite why switching off the machine won't achieve this is never explored, but she does cough up a quart of blood at a moment of tech crisis). Themes of identity and alienation abounded, yet never quite took, as this operated better as an adventure yarn with extreme imagery; some may find it ponderous, but it contained a certain single-minded verve (perhaps ironically) that kept you watching, assuming you hadn't rejected it in outright disgust. Music by Jim Williams.

[Signature Entertainment presents Possessor on digital platforms 27 November 2020.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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