Often times Christopher Nolan is referred to as the king of cerebral Sci-Fi but I for one would wholeheartedly disagree. His mega budget movies featuring all star casts hinge on high concept ideas that seemingly baffle and befuddle the audience’s minds. However time and time again from Interstellar to Tenet, Nolan has proven to be nothing more than a curate’s egg.
The gimmicks at the centre of each of these films are fatally flawed if not downright dumb and it seems Nolan’s real skill lies in keeping the viewer too distracted by epic set pieces, explosions and unintelligible dialogue to really question what is going on.
So where should someone with a taste for inventive, entertaining and intellectually stimulating Sci-Fi films look? A good place to start would be with Brandon Cronenberg, son of David and the visionary writer and director behind Possessor.
Stepping out of his fathers shadow and proving his talent with his debut movie Antiviral in 2012, his second feature is even more impressive taking several concepts Nolan toyed with and crafting a far more mature, powerful and visually stunning story out of them.
Opening with a blood drenched murder we meet Girder (The Hateful Eight’s Jennifer Jason Leigh) the head of a shadowy company who use brain-implant technology to take over peoples bodies and use them to execute high profile targets.
Their best agent is Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough from Birdman and Mandy) an elite assassin who is highly trained in taking over men and women to use as she likes to kill whoever she needs to. Although Vos totally submerges herself in her job she still has a link to her own identity in the form of her husband Michael and their son Ira however any time spent with them is plagued by horrific visions of murder and mutilation.
Diving back into her work and another contract she is placed into the mind of Colin Tate (The Sinner’s Christopher Abbott) with the purpose of murdering his lover Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton from Downton Abbey) and her billionaire father John Parse (the sensational Sean Bean) in a plan to wrestle his hugely successful data mining company into another persons control.
Once in possession of Colin however reality starts to unravel and Vos begins to lose herself inside the man’s mind. With the competing psyches fighting for dominance it becomes unclear who is in control and as the mission spins out of control so does everything else.
Similarities can be seen in Possessor to everything from Inception to Killing Eve to Face/Off but that is doing this fantastic film a disservice seeing as it is far more original and creative than comparisons imply.
Set in a not so distant future Cronenberg thrusts us into an environment that is everyday yet also disturbingly alien. Coupling some stunning and stylish locations with well designed and cleverly though out technological advancements such as the virtual reality offices, strange robotic toys and the mind swapping machine itself, he creates a world all of its own that is totally believable yet unnerving all at the same time.
Wonderfully exploring identity, performance and personality we get to see Vos not only as herself but as Colin and discover which version, if either, is truer to her pure persona. Echoes in each of their lives repeat emphasising the similarities and differences of the characters yet also displaying the fundamental familiarity that can be seen across all humanity.
Possessor is also a clinical dissection of what makes someone a killer, highlighting the detachment necessary to end a life without remorse of mercy. Brutal and beautiful in its portrayal of violence many of the murders are displayed like works of art and there are several scenes not for the squeamish taking the movie into the territory of body horror that Brandon’s father is so famous for.
Although a highly stylised and optically original movie Possessor would be nothing without the equally excellent performances and everyone involved is wonderfully well cast. Credit especially is due to Riseborough and Abbott who have extremely challenging roles that intertwine and conflict at various points in the plot yet somehow both remain totally engaging throughout the twisted story telling.
Truly mind bending Possessor is a grown up Sci-Fi movie full of emotion, invention, visceral violence and more that excites your mind, heart and guts far more than anything Christopher Nolan has created.
Signature Entertainment presents Possessor on digital platforms 27 November