Possessor ★★★★

The long-awaited second movie from Brandon Cronenberg is another stylish and unsettling chip off dad's block, starring Andrea "Mandy" Riseborough as a woman navigating the line that separates the idylls of home from the demands of a career. Although she spends a good portion of her work day lying down, the profession is unduly demanding, since she hacks into unsuspecting people's minds to get close to targets and discretely assassinate them. As her boss and tech wiz, Jennifer "Allegra Geller" Jason Leigh worries when star employee Riseborough starts describing anomalies in her perception and has difficulty dealing the final self-inflicted blow to her recent possessees. Their latest job becomes dangerously fraught when the man she's inside (Christopher "not Kit Harington" Abbott) finds a way to wrest control, endangering not just the paid gig to snuff his girlfriend's rich father (Sean "yellow wax" Bean) but the lives of the possessor and her family.

It was another sign that my 2010s were a total blur when I realized Cronenberg's impressive debut Antiviral came out not four or five years ago, but eight. That gap is somewhat sad/shocking, but I'm glad he took his time crafting his justifiably praised follow-up, rather than shamelessly capitalizing on his surname and the contemporary vogue for body horror. Likewise, as a fan of the family brand, I'm delighted that Possessor so deftly messes with the mind/body connection, stacking ingrained influences from cult sci-fi chestnuts like Scanners and eXistenZ toward a thrilling exercise in subterfuge, ending on a stark note of chilling inevitability. To augment the mindmelt, Cronenberg proffers judicious application of startling effects that really stick with you and a secretly magnetic low-key turn from the great JJL.

After two features, Brandon's particular area of fascination within the template appears to center on the sinister, secretive corporation and the obliteration of self under its aegis. It's a rich genre vein he could conceivably continue mining for ages, considering the care he's shown thus far. I was really looking forward to Possessor and almost wish I risked/endured another awful pandemic theater experience when it played near me a few months back, because this was the most gratifying new movie I saw all year.

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