Brandon Cronenberg's second feature is not for people who want fast-paced action, nor for people who don't like gore. However, for those who enjoy character-based, slow-burning, tense thrillers with intelligence running throughout, sudden bursts of violence accompanied by splatterings of hugely impressive and nasty practical effects, Possessor is a must see.
The plot is ingenious. In an alternative 2008, one in which it seems technology took a different turn to the one we live with today, Andrea Riseborough plays a corporate assassin working for Jennifer Jason Leigh. She inhabits the body of someone close to the target, kills them then returns her consciousness to her own body just as she has the host body 'commit suicide'. But in possessing so many other bodies, other lives, other identities, the impact on her own reality starts to shift. And her latest assignment finds the mind of the man she's inhabiting not willing to let go without a fight.
There's so much that's great about this film, not least the performances, which are superb across the board. And whilst Riseborough does some of her best work in ages, it's Christopher Abbott who really impresses as we see him playing both his own character, and that of the assassin pretending to be him. It's a remarkable achievement. It's also a real pleasure to see wonderfully imaginative and sometimes horrendously gruesome practical effects in use. Being the uncut version of the film, some of these are pretty hard to watch. As mentioned, it's a slow burner so that by the time the action arrives, leading towards a climax so unsettling, horrific, and surprising, you're fully invested.
The Blu-ray disc has just a small number of extras but, for once, they are all gems. The best of the short documentaries is a joyful look at those squirm inducing effects, which is both huge fun and very insightful. There's also an exploration of the alternative world the film is set in, and one short about identity in which the actors talk about the complexity involved in the many layers of playing characters inhabiting other characters. There's a fascinating short film by Cronenberg, which is very much a precursor to Possessor's style, and the usual collection of deleted scenes. Not one of these deleted scenes should have been cut from the film. They all work, they all add to the story, and it's presumably a runtime consideration that saw them get the chop. It's a shame but at least we now get to see them.