December 18, 2020 – There have been many movies made about assassins, but I have never seen one before that exposed the moral depravity of the occupation with the intensity of this one. In all other assassin movies the assassin follows some moral rules, such as avoiding the killing of innocents. That morality is lacking in this film.
In most Hollywood films, assassinations are depicted as a kind of bloodless violence, cartoon violence, if you will, which further obscures the moral depravity of killing people in cold blood. In this film, there is anger and rage in the assassinations. The killing is not cold-blooded, it is hot-blooded.
This all came as a shock to me when watching this film because I had become accustomed to the usual portrayal of assassins, anesthetized to the depiction of a sanitized form of movie killing.
It starts off right away with the killing of a man in an airport lobby, a rage-fueled graphic frenzy of repeatedly stabbing and mutilating the victim. The killer, Holly Bergman (played by Gabrielle Graham of “On the Basis of Sex”) puts her hand in the pool of blood and looks at her blood-soaked hand. She then takes out her gun and puts it in her mouth.
The apparent assassin, Holly, is soon killed, but it turns out she is just another victim. The real assassin is another woman, Tasya Vos (played by Andrea Riseborough of “The Grudge”) who is controlling Holly's body from a remote location. Holly must die to sever her mental link to Tasya so that Tasya's consciousness can return to Tasya's own body. Killing Holly also enables Tasya, and her employer to avoid being caught and brought to justice.
From a scientific standpoint, none of this makes any sense, but if you accept the premise and suspend your disbelief, the story does deliver a clear moral message, despite some ambiguities at the end.
Tasya is a killer for hire. She kills people for money. Her boss, Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh of “The Hateful Eight”) tells her that the company has picked up lucrative murder contract and she, as the company's best possessor-killer, is at the top of the list for the job.
Girder gives Tasya a memory test to determine if her mind has been contaminated by Holly's mind, or if it has been damaged somehow during the transfer. Tasya passes the test but lies about the fact that she had trouble separating herself from Holly's body. She could not pull the trigger to kill Holly. Instead, she manipulated the police into killing Holly.
Girder also cautions Tasya about getting back together with her estranged husband, Michael (Rossif Sutherland of “Backstabbing for Beginners”) and young son, Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot of “Becky”). Girder said she should avoid them because her work could put them in danger. Tasya ignores this advice.
Tasya goes ahead with the next assignment, but is again unable to pull the trigger and escape from the body of the man, Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott of “It Comes at Night”) she is controlling. Tate begins to regain control of his body. He realizes that he has killed the woman he loved and her father and he exacts terrible revenge against those who made him into an unwilling murderer.
The consciousnesses of Tate and Tasya become entangled. It becomes difficult to see who is in control of Tate's body at the end, Tate, Tasya, or a combination of the two. It is also hard to tell what, if any motivation there is for the bloody killings that ensue. The ending of the film contains a lot of ambiguities, but it appears that Girder and Tasya plan to continue the business of murder as usual in the future.
This is a no-holds-barred look at the horror of murder and a main character who is the embodiment of pure evil.
This appears to be a low budget movie which tries to make up for its lack of visual polish and technical sophistication with inventive cinematography by Karim Hussain and visual effects supervised by Murray Barber of Milk Visual Effects. Director Brandon Cronenberg, here reveals some influences, like in-your-face-gore, from his father, director David Cronenberg (of “eXistenZ” and “Scanners”).
The acting is solid, highlighted by a strong performance by Andrea Riseborough, who plays the main character, Tasya. This is an effective film, even though I couldn't quite stomach it myself, especially during a year which has seen so much suffering and death. If you like slasher films, this might appeal to you. Despite the fact that I did not find this film enjoyable or entertaining, I am giving it a positive rating because it gets its message across, and it is a worthwhile moral message, even though it is hard to watch. This film rates a B.
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