15 June 2024

Film Review – Anon (2018)

Futuristic cop Sal (Clive Owen) is unusually enthusiastic. He has a “real whodunit” on his hands. Nothing remarkable in that, you might think, except that he lives in a world where there’s no secrecy or privacy, where everybody’s information and memories can be accessed in the blink of an eye and where, as a result, crime is almost non-existent. Which means that, for once, he can get his teeth into some real detective work.

Such is the premise of Andrew Niccol’s Anon. Sal is working on a series of murders and getting nowhere, until he discovers a young woman (Amanda Seyfried) who has found a way round the system: she has no records, no identity, no memories and makes her living helping other people alter their histories to their advantage. And that makes her a prime suspect in the murder case. Although tracking her down isn’t exactly easy.

She’s crucial to the plot, but equally crucial to making sure we get the film’s message loud and clear. She’s not become anonymous because she has secrets: she doesn’t have anything that she wants the outside world to know – and that applies especially the repressive authorities. So it’s a film about the difference between privacy and secrecy which has turned out to be something of a gift for Niccol. The parallels between the movie and the current privacy debate are startling and mean that people have been talking about Anon for weeks without even knowing it. Strokes of luck don’t come bigger.

That aside, the premise is intriguing and has the potential for a gripping thriller. The added topicality gives it a touch of discomfort and, as a vision of the future, it’s grey, cold and unfeeling. Which is exactly as it should be. Seyfried’s hacker is so icily detached that there’s a lingering suspicion that she might not turn out to be human.

But it’s also a premise that has its limitations and the film feels stretched to breaking point. There simply isn’t enough in the story or the characters to make a full length feature. Especially the characters, because it’s difficult to engage with them, even when they’re given a backstory aimed at grabbing our sympathy. Owen’s cop has a sad past, all to do with his son, but even this falls flat and fails to make him more engaging. Anon has potential and the gift of topicality, yet it’s flat, predictable and as grey as its setting. The idea might be compelling, but it never holds on to your interest.

ANON will be released in UK and Irish cinemas and on Sky Cinema from May 11.

Freda Cooper | [rating=2]

Thriller, Sci-fi | UK, Sky Cinema, 11 May (2018) | Altitude | Dir. Andrew Niccol| Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Ferore, Mark O’Brien, Sonya Walger and Iddo Goldberg.

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