For most of its run time Anon hooks you in to its sexy, seductive tech of tomorrow thriller premise. With solid performances and fun spin on the eye of the beholder cliche, the film has some interesting concepts. An unsatisfying final act spoils some of the fun, but Anon is an otherwise engaging effort and worth checking out on Netflix.
Set in the not too distant future, Anon features a world with limitless access. Technology keeps humans plugged in at all times. They can easily view another person’s name, age and occupation from a mere glance thanks to a heads up display in their eyes. This technology negates the need to search Google for anything. Basic data and background like the make, model and history of a car, food ingredients and a constant flow of advertisements are always on.
Another benefit of this tech is people can easily share memories or records so another viewer can see exactly what happened without any bias. And permission is completely optional.
That’s helped to make Sal Friedland’s (Clive Owen) job as a detective extraordinary uneventful. With a few various perspectives, Sal can easily determine the guilty party in a shooting, what happened to a missing necklace and who’s scamming money from a company.
It’s boring work until Sal and his partner, Charles Gattis (Colm Feore, Thor), get a call for a murder without a record. Sal and Charles quickly discover this wasn’t an isolated incident and they’re in the midst of a serial killing spree. Predictably, their superior is less interested in dead bodies popping up, but how this glitch could impact the future of the tech. If people can commit murder anonymously, what’s the point of buying in?
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An elaborate investigation leads Sal to Anon (Amanda Seyfried, Pan), a mysterious life hacker who can replace actions of bad behavior — say sleeping with a prostitute or buying cocaine — with more agreeable records. Anon checks all the boxes of the mystery killer, but Sal finds himself fascinated with this mystery woman’s desire and ability to stay off the grid.
Owen is one of my favorite underutilized actors. This role plays into a lot of his strengths of the brooding character prone to rash decisions like his work on the original Sin City. Seyfried pulls off femme fatale surprisingly well showing off her continued versatility. Still, the 21-year age gap between Seyfriend and Owen makes for an unconvincing romance/infatuation.
Director/Writer Andrew Niccol, an Academy Award screenwriter nominee for The Truman Show, asks the viewer to trust his process. Specifically, to patiently wait through some uneventful and repetitive scenes for a payoff that makes it all worthwhile.
Early on that’s an easy proposition thanks to the fascinating implementation of the new technology, especially when it gets manipulated. Amir Mokri’s (Man of Steel) cinematography with washed out blues and greys along with spacious office spaces and residents helps sell this sterile and controlled future. Niccol doesn’t pack a ton of action in the film as Anon is more of a slow burn with the occasional energetic moments. It’s far more of a titillating cat and mouse
At times the pace feels a bit plodding even with the 100 minute run time. Niccol probably could have shaved off 15 minutes easy. Or he could have better allocated that time to massage the final act more. Without delving into spoilers, the ending makes sense, but needed more explanation to cover some obvious gaps in logic.
Anon isn’t as groundbreaking or thrilling as it could be, but Owen and Seyfried make the most of the mystery to maintain interest despite a flimsy finale.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix