Possessor ★★★

This review covers my initial viewing of Possessor (2020) and my opinion, as has happened so often before, is likely to change on rewatch.

Good sci-fi asks a question. Great sci-fi follows up on the answers it asks. Possessor is a film of the former school. I saw the film without prior knowledge of the film or its writer/director (Croenenberg). From the posters and brief advertising material caught in passing on trains and social media I assumed it to be a horror film.

The film’s opening does an incredible job of convincing you that you are watching science fiction. Deeply uncomfortable shots lend themselves to unsettling the audience into a heightened sense of anticipation. I found myself ready to believe what was presented on screen to engage in a thought experiment based around identity, co-dependence, and sexuality.

Make no mistake, though. This is a slasher movie.

The questions raised seem like an accidental bi-product of a poorly thought out conceit for a hunt-them-down hitman/slasher film rather than the science fiction that this film curiously considers itself as. The poster even quotes it as one of the greatest science fiction films of the decade.

The strange disconnect between what is promised by the film, in the first twenty minutes, and what is delivered for the rest of the film found me hovering above the fiction and unable to take the plunge into what it was attempting to offer.

There is no denying that greatness lies within this movie, though. Every cast member gives a spectacular performance that never lets up. Those in smaller roles shine especially here. Sean Bean delivers his famous, but never overrated, understated best, and Hrant Alianak impresses with only two or three lines of dialogue.

The two leads are undoubtedly the power behind this engine, and without them the centre would not hold. As the unhinged hitman Tasya Vos, Andrea Riseborough brings an unsettling realism to what might otherwise have been a hackneyed Troubled-Mother-character role. Her distinct accent all but disappears as she learns to become her victims, and the way that she can differentiate her movement and physicality at different degrees in the process is impressive. Her work is only rivalled by that of Christopher Abbot, whose frankly incredible performance captures all the nuance of not only playing his character, Colin Tate, but of Tasya Vos becoming Colin Tate, and finally Tate fighting back against Vos in the same body.

The actors’ cohesiveness in portraying these two characters as a part of each other is astounding, and is where the movie truly shines.