Technology and social issues are no strangers to writer/director Andrew Niccol, a filmmaker who has dabbled with these issues previously in Gattaca, Good Kill even The Truman Show. Niccol visits the themes of privacy and security with a stylistic tone adding a modern crime thriller noir element to smooth out the edges; no matter how slick it looks to the eye there is no glossing over the fact this low budget offering is cold-heartedly flawed.
Set in a future where digital information on each individual is readily available at the blink of an eye. Clive Owen takes on the role of Sal Frieland, a sharp-suited, divorced, hard-drinking detective with his own deep-seated issues surrounding the loss of his son. In Niccol’s future, every minor move we make, thought we have, memory we create and crime we commit is digitally stored in The Ether, a data storage system we access through our own being. Sal’s job couldn’t be any easier as he sifts through this data to easily find any culprit of a crime.
That is until a spat of murders unravels an unidentifiable serial killer, who also just happens to be a hacker. The hacker, just before pulling that fatal trigger on their terrified victim, erases the memory of the hacker’s identity replacing their own viewpoint into that of the doomed victim.
Anon’s world is a cold and clinical future only enhanced with the monochrome aesthetic of the picture. Chills run down the spine at the image of the robotic-like existence of the normal person on the street. Their heads are finally out of their phones, only for the internet to be accessible directly from their brain. Niccol’s stark noir world is built with technical precision; no one can fault the imagery of his futuristic haze. That can’t be said of the less than thrilling plot line of predictability, monotony and the lack of any feeling or connection with its characters.
The prime suspect in the clinical murders lies firmly with The Girl, an unidentifiable hacker played by Amanda Seyfried. A role in which Seyfried is completely wasted as she glides in and out of scenes with not much to do as Sal sets out a relentless entrapment plan. There is much lacking in her performance apart from the emptiness that emanates from her stare. Owen, however, is much suited to the role of this tormented detective; with his classic noir ambience and style and the etchings of a face that includes a little depth and humanises such a clinical world.
If half as much effort and passion which had gone into Anon’s technological world had been carried over into its “thriller” element, Niccol’s latest sci-fi endeavour could have achieved an impact. Instead, it lacks energy and even passion, leaving nothing but the vast abyss of emptiness.
Anon is out in UK and Irish cinemas and on Sky Cinema from May 11.