For this instalment of Movie Mondays, I’ll be looking at a film from 2020 that I watched for the first time the other night. After initial apprehension at the horror category assigned to the movie I decided that the plot sounded good and that it wouldn’t be the standard Hollyood jump-scare bonanza that is often associated with modern horror movies. I’m very glad that I got over that initial concern, as Possessor is one of the most mind-bending sci-fi movies over recent years and has stuck in my mind ever since that initial viewing.
I personally hadn’t heard of the movie, although there are several actors that I recognise, not least Sean Bean, and the production value seems very high. I only actually stumbled across the movie on Belmont Filmhouse’s new rental-based streaming platform. The service has a great selection of new and old films that you’re not likely to get on Netflix or Amazon Prime so I really suggested checking it out and supporting an amazing local business. That being said, after deciding upon Possessor I was quickly sucked in to the world of near-future underground criminal syndicates.
The basic premise of the movie sound similar to a jumped up episode of Black Mirror, which in some ways is accurate. The film shares the themes of quickly approaching dystopia, corporate greed and technology gone astray, not to mention an overlap of actors that appear in both the film and the series. In my opinion, Possessor is like one of the very best Black Mirror episodes but with some excessive gore and an eerily beautiful and highly stylised look. It could be said that it’s like what would happen if a director such as Kubrick or Tarkovsky guest directed an episode of Black Mirror and went a bit over the top.
The gore that I have mentioned may be enough to put some people off, it was pretty grotesque and some scenes stood out in my mind as the most violent I have seen for some time. If this doesn’t bother you, then the movie is a great look at a hypothetical techno-corporate world where shady agencies are hired to take out business rivals. The agency in question is the main feature of the film, but with a specified look at one of the futuristic ‘assassins’ which they employ.
Tasya Vos, played by Andrea Riseborough, is one of the most valuable talents at this guild of assassins but we quickly see that her work is taking a toll. It is worth mentioning here that in this proposed future brain implants are used to stage the murders, usually framing the assassination as a lovers quarrel gone wrong or a family feud that went too far. By controlling the body of someone close to a target, assassins such as Vos can use their skill as both an actor and killer to stage elaborate murders that serve the needs of unnamed business elites.
The mental toll of being this sort of post-assassin combined with the high pressure situations of the job plays out in predictably dramatic fashion. The film, however, always keeps you guessing and creates a constant state of tension where anything could happen. Overall, Possessor is a great example of contemporary sci-fi and is one of the most visually appealing films that I have seen released in recent years. While I can’t recommend it to anyone that gets squeamish with blood, there’s definitely more to it than a creepy horror flick.
Words by Ewan Blacklaw