• Possessor (Well Go USA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: December 9th, 2020.
    Director: Brandon Cronenberg
    Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Bean, Rossif Sutherland
    Year: 2020
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    Possessor – Movie Review:

    After making his feature film debut in 2012 with Antiviral, filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg (son of the great David Cronenberg) is back with his second picture, 2020’s Possessor, a picture that, while still showing the influence of his father’s work, is a big step up from that earlier effort.

    The story, which Cronenberg also wrote, opens with a scene where a woman sticks a needle into the back of her head, makes a few adjustments on a dial connected to said needle by a wire, and then proceeds to head into a nightclub and brutally stab to death a middle aged male patron. The cops show up and when she doesn’t have the wherewithal to shoot herself in the head, she lets the cops take her out.

    From here, we cut to the interior of a laboratory of some sort where a woman named Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) pulls off a helmet and basically decompresses. As she talks to her superior, Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh), it’s clear that Vos was the one behind the assassination and that she and Girder work for a company that specializes in these types of hit jobs. They’ve created a technology that allows Vos and others like her to essentially take over someone else’s body and using them to carry out lucrative, high profile murders. With her work finished, Vos heads home to hang out with her husband, Michael (Rossif Sutherland, Donald Sutherland’s son and Kiefer’s younger half-brother!), and her son Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot), but before long she’s been called back in for her next job.

    This time around, Vos is tasked with inhabiting the body of Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott), the fiancé of Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton). She's the daughter of John Parse (Sean Bean), the owner of the data mining company where Tate is employed. Vos is to, as Colin, take out Ava and John and then himself, so that one of Ava’s relatives can take control of the company once they’re gone. She agrees to take the job – and that’s where things get more than a little bit complicated for her.

    This picture may still show Brandon Cronenberg under the influence of his father’s work – the picture deals with body horror, the use of odd technologies in a weird world familiar to, but not quite the same as, the one we live in (all common themes in David Cronenberg’s work) – but Brandon puts his own stamp on this. The film never feels like a carbon copy or a knock off, instead, succeeding on its own terms while still wearing some of its influences on its sleeve.

    Possessor is an impressive film. It’s a thought provoking picture, making you question the worth of the convenience offered by smart home devices and technology like Google Home and Alexa, and the privacy sacrifices you make by using them, as well as the value of identity. As Vos gets used to Tate’s world, she spends a day at his job watching through an unspecified smart home device and making notes on the types of curtains people use, all while trying to not pay attention to the couple having graphic sex in front of the camera. It’s a quick scene, but one you won’t forget, and one that might have you putting a piece of black electrical tape over the webcam on your laptop the next time you fire it up. Additionally, the use of what are essentially VR headsets to give Parse’s employees the sense that they have their own fancy office and are not all just standing at counters like herded animals is also an interesting detail. Little things like this will stick in your brain once the movie is finished.

    The acting in the film is excellent. Andrea Riseborough, instantly recognizable from last year’s cult hit Mandy, is the perfect choice to play the body-hopping assassin. She’s got an unorthodox look to her that somehow just suits the character and she’s also clearly not put off by stronger, more unusual content, throwing herself into the part and really delivering fine work here. Christopher Abbott, essentially the other lead in the film, also does great work in the picture. He portrays Tate’s anger and confusion really effectively, handling a tricky role and making it look easy. Supporting work from Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuppence Middleton and Rossif Sutherland are also very good here.

    Visuals are consistently slick. The cinematography from Karim Hussein (director of Subconscious Cruelty and contributor to Theatre Bizarre) is frequently stunning, the framing sometimes unorthodox but always completely effective. The film’s use of violence – very strong violence, in fact – is handled well, never feeling like it’s delving into gratuitous splatter film territory but definitely not holding back and bringing with it some serious impact. The practical effects are convincing, and the use of sound in the movie is also very strong.

    Note that Well Go USA has released Possessor in its completely uncut form, which is absolutely how you should see it.

    Possessor – Blu-ray Review:

    Possessor looks great on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in this AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer from Well Go USA, with the feature taking up 33.4GBs of space. Aside from a bit of banding, this looks really strong in high definition. Colors look really nice, detail is strong and there’s good depth throughout. Black levels are strong and the image is free of any obvious compression artifacts. This was shot digitally so grain and print damage don’t factor into the equation at all. To summarize, the picture quality looks very good here.

    The primary audio option on this disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, though an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also provided. Optional subtitles are offered up in English SDH only. The 5.1 mix is impressive and immersive, with rear channels used not just to bring the score to life but to throw some interesting sound effects at you too – from something bombastic like a gunshot to something more subtle like the knock on a door. As you’d expect for a such a recent feature, the levels are well-balanced and the track is free of even a trace of hiss or distortion.

    As far as the extras go, A Heightened World is the first of the three featurettes included on the disc. Here, over just under eleven-minutes we get interviews with Production Designer Rupert Lazarus, actor Christipher Abbott, writer/director Brandon Cronenberg, actress Andrea Riseborough, actress Tuppence Middleton, cinematograph Karim Hussein and special makeup artist Dan Martin. The talks cover the look of the film, how they went about making things look current but different, as if the world took a different turn twenty years ago, by using modern and retro technology at the same time. There's some great behind the scenes footage in here to complement the interview snippets.

    In the fifteen-minute Identity Crisis we get interviews with the same participants that are used in the first featurette (save for Lazarus and Martin) as well as actor Sean Bean. This piece covers thoughts on the script, where Cronenberg got the idea from for the film while going through a dark period in his life, the use of violence in the film, the themes that the film explores, the influence of the Edward Snowden case, Cronenberg's process as a director, the role of gender in the film, details on the specific characters that live in the film, what it was like on set during the production and the collaborative aspect of the moviemaking process.

    Lastly, the twelve-minute The Joy Of Practical focuses on the practical effects featured in the film by way of interviews with Cronenberg, Martin and Hussein. This piece covers why they chose to use practical effects instead of CGI, how some of the effects set pieces were pulled off, camerawork that was used to get the effects just right and quite a bit more. There's is, again, a lot of great behind the scenes footage included here that is quite interesting to see.

    Also included in the supplemental package are three deleted scenes: the four-minute Panic Attack, the three-minute Reid’s In The Pool and the ninety-second Wake Up And Count. We won’t go into detail here about what happens, but they’re interesting to see and worth checking out.

    Well Go USA also supplies a green band trailer for the film as well as red band and uncut variations. The disc also includes trailers for a few other Well Go USA properties as well as menus and chapter selection options. An embossed cardboard slipcover is included and inside the Blu-ray keepcase there’s an insert advertising a few other Well Go USA releases.

    Possessor – The Final Word:

    As thought provoking and intelligent as it is unsettling and tense, Possessor solidifies Brandon Cronenberg’s position as a director genre fans will definitely want to keep an eye on. The cast all bring their A-game, the visuals are never less than impressive and the whole thing just comes together very nicely. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds really good and the featurettes included in the extra features section are all worth checking out. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Possessor Blu-ray screen caps!