Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Movie Review: Anon

Anon ** / *****
Directed by: Andrew Niccol.
Written by: Andrew Niccol.
Starring: Clive Owen (Sal Frieland), Amanda Seyfried (The Girl), Colm Feore (Detective Charles Gattis), Sonya Walger (Kristen), Mark O'Brien (Cyrus Frear), Joe Pingue (Lester Goodman), Iddo Goldberg (Joseph Kenik), Sebastian Pigott (Detective Vardy), Rachel Roberts (Alysa Egorian).
I almost feel bad that Andrew Niccol’s debut film was Gattaca (1997) – because in a way, he’s been chasing that success ever since. That truly is one of the best modern sci-fi films – one whose reputation grown in the 21 years since its release – and a watermark Niccol hasn’t been able to surpass since. He has tried several times to do another high concept sci fi film – Simone, In Time – because he’s arguably done much better when leaves that world behind to concentrate on something else (my favorite of his post Gattaca films is Lord of War – a GoodFellas riff with Nicolas Cage as an arms dealer). Anon is another one of Niccol’s attempts at creating a dystopian sci fi world a la Gattaca – and another attempt where he comes up short. The initial idea is interesting, but it never really goes anywhere.
Anon is set in a world where anonymity is no longer possible – ever person you meet has been tagged, and you can tell everything you need to know about them – their name, their job, etc. Everything is also recorded as well, so you cannot really hide anything, because eventually, someone can just remind your life, and look at what you were doing at any time. In this world, the job of a Detective is much easier – you know what happened at all times – but it doesn’t stop Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) from being a cop anyway. But his most recent case is strange – there seems to be a serial killer on the loose, yet when they check the footage of the killings from the POV of the victim, what they get instead in the POV of the killer – with no idea who they are. Eventually, they are able to tie the crimes to someone who Sal first thought was a glitch – because when he first sees Anon (Amanda Seyfried) none of her information comes up. She has found a way to go anonymous in the world – and for a price, can erase your dirty little secrets as well. Now though, she seems to be killing her clients. Which, of course, means Sal will have to go undercover – and of course, they two will develop feelings for each other. But is she a serial killer?
The concept of Anon is a little silly, of course, but then again that’s par for the course in films like this. Niccol is trying to go for some sort of future noir (on a budget) here – which explains why Clive Owen still smokes in this movie, because noir detective always smoke. And it should be said that Owen is quite good here – he always is as these types of weary characters (like Children of Men), and Seyfried is perhaps even better. She is certainly the more interesting character – at least in concept, I just wish she was given a little bit more depth. I also liked the visual look of the film – which is deliberately grey and washed out – which matches the world itself.
The ultimate problem with Anon is that Niccol never relaxes enough to simply tell the story at the core of the movie, and instead, wants to explain everything. He wants to create an airtight world – which is not only kind of impossible in these types of films, but also completely pointless. He spends so much time with that, that the ending of the movie feels rushed, and the big twist doesn’t really work, because there is no real way to figure it out, and we don’t really care anyway. The last line of the film is also a clunker that leaves you cold.
The film is another Netflix original that feels like an old script, dusted off by a talented filmmaker when the streaming giant came knocking with some money. The idea is there for Anon to be a good movie – but a draft or two more at the screenplay stage to tease out more story and less explanation would have done a world of good. I’ll always have time for Niccol – he comes up with good ideas, even if the execution isn’t always there. Sadly, that is the case with Anon.

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