Andrew’s review published on Letterboxd:
I probably need a bit more time to process this, but here we go anyway.
I feel like the film plays a thematically dangerous game with suicide.
The concept is fantastic, at least in part because they don't over explain the "science" of it. The basic idea is that through some sort of temporal cerebral port, a person is given access to the mind and body of another person. Not unlike Being John Malkovich, except because the is a Brandon Cronenberg film, the method of access into another person has to be more body horrific.
Andrea Riseborough is the person who enters other people's minds and bodies. She does this because it is her job. She works for an organization that gets contracts from people to infiltrate the bodies of other people, and it seems usually use that person to commit murders. Then Riseborough (as the other person) kills her/him self, and that is what vaults her back to her natural state of being.
I have already explained it more than the film does. It lets you learn and figure things out as it goes along. This is not an action movie like Inception. This is a psychological / physical horror movie.
The concept is matter of fact. No one seems to be debating the ethics or morality of the work. Not because they don't think it is bad, it's because the work for an evil corporation or entity. Real people are being killed, and real people are losing their agency to commit the murders, and then themselves being killed.
The conflict in the film comes when Riseborough's character starts to psychologically breakdown. We don't understand her motivation to do this work in the first place. It seems like the type of thing that enslaved people would be forced to do. Or maybe blackmailed people would do it to get out of trouble. We don't get her reason, and I think that is important. It creates a big question mark in the film that doesn't require an answer, but it acts like a hook to keep the audience interested.
Riseborough starts seeing things in the body of her host, that aren't there. She can no longer pull the trigger on herself to vault out. It seems like she looses the ability to know where she ends and the host begins. Perhaps she fears that if she pulls the trigger, she may kill herself. Or perhaps she fears pulling the trigger because she doesn't want to be her self. Maybe she likes the escape.
She is supposed to shoot her victims at close range, so she knows they are dead. But she has taken up the practice of brutally beating and stabbing and gouging her prey. Why? Is she doing it for a rush? To feel alive? To feel in control? I love that the film doesn't provide answers.
The imagery involves a lot of looking in mirrors or through windows, or at reflections somehow. That is expected with this type of movie. But there is a fair amount of cold, detached moments of gore mixed with sexuality.
I watched this on my large TV, but with my headphones in. The sound design is very specific and chilling.
I thought Riseborough did a great job with a difficult character. All those questions I've been asking, I can guarantee that she has an answer to all of them. But I was even more impressed with Christopher Abbott who plays her second host. I think he has more screen time than Riseborough, and he also has a difficult role. He has to be about 10 Riseborough at any given time. He has to be playing his character, but as he would be if someone else was in control of him.
Sean Bean has a very small role in the film as a rich asshole, and he is great as always.