-Review by Ruth Marron
New Zealand filmmaker, Andrew Niccol, the mind behind The Truman Show and In Time, presents us with a formidable feature film which witnesses him produce, direct and write the most thought-provoking account of science fiction expected to be released this year. The premise of Anon is simple. It centers around a plausible manifestation of a world where it has become commonplace to modify the body to broaden our knowledge base of all objects and individuals. Bolstered by the added advantage of so-called safety through the removal of what is so readily available at our fingertips at present in the form of social media and search engine results, and subsequently installing it directly into our frame of vision in a future dystopian reality.
Niccol, without any whisper of hesitation, submerges us into ‘The Big Room’, an accelerated and futuristic version of earth where all cognition is recorded, and placed on file for the purpose of recollection and distribution. Beit between spouses or detectives within a police force, there is no action that can exist beyond the scope of review by anyone with access to the ‘The Ether’, the subsphere where all documented activity is generated and housed. The film is intelligent in its introduction of setting and plot, wherein we see Clive Owen’s character, Sal Frieland, walking through a concrete jungle with a Simlike designator and profile floating above his head. Both main characters are introduced nonverbally, with Amanda Seyfried, Anon, being a mere glitch witnessed through the interface within Owen’s eyes. Set in a dystopian shadow of New York City, the film explores the facets of anonymity in a world where shying away from total disclosure of one’s life is synonymous with having something to hide. This, coupled with the automatic detection of crime, effectively scrubs the world of lawlessness, acting as the catalyst inciting a fringe group of society who work professionally to mask the true sequence of events recorded and rewrite the chronology of a person’s lived history for the right price, which for our Anon, happens to be the client’s life.
In spite of the strong performances and alluring visuals in the film derived from Amir Mokri’s (Transformers Franchise, Fast & Furious) cinematography, Anon often feels more like the pilot for a series rather than a feature film, with certain aspects of the main characters being revealed but not effectively fleshed out, most notably the childhood and reasoning for Anon’s departure from recognition in modern society, ultimately culminating in a hasty ending, but one that still manages to satiate both the story and the viewer alike.
The film is woven together as smoothly as the memories and patches manufactured by Anon for her clients. With the intersection of cinematography, score and robust plot offering a well-paced cinematic ride that prompts the viewer to question the relationship we have with technology, and whether or not this pursuit for ease and continuous documentation of our lives will ever reach an end before the hacking of our own selves becomes instrumental to the way we live. In a world where privacy is receding, the message purported by the film is all the more jarring, if everything is known and available to us now more than ever, then why don’t we feel safe?
Anon is due to be released on Netflix on May 4th.