The future can be scary, and that’s exactly how writer/director Andrew Niccol (Gattica) likes it. Niccol’s latest, Anon, directly distributed by Netflix, takes social media privacy scares and concerns and makes those issues a substantial threat as every event every single person sees is stored forever in an Orwell-ian cloud. Anon presents an original, albeit disturbing, viewpoint on how deep privacy can be regarded making this future world as scary as it is believable. Digital ads the size of buildings are on display as an on-board Alexa/Siri/Samantha can direct listeners for every step they take, as someone is always watching you, until they hack you.
Clive Owen stars as a detective in a nameless city under a perpetually gray twilight sky who has access to these personal, individual records. He’s a gruff, tired-looking cop who smokes (so hey, at least that vice is still around in the near future) as much as he plays voyeur into his, as well others’, memories. However, hackers who work off the grid can be paid in order to edit, thus hide, certain memories. One hacker has taken to killing such individuals and Owen is tasked to stop the murderer.
Anon, played by Amanda Seyfried, is a hip hi-tech cat that proves her prowess by slowly hacking into Owen’s own visuals, distorting what he is seeing, be that a clear intersection that is actually jamming, or an empty elevator car instead of an empty elevator shaft. The tech premise is extraordinary, tempering the best of what science-fiction at its core is supposed to offer, as the presented threat is real and believable.
Alas, all good science fiction does have its limits, as does Anon, and this neo-noir thriller exposes its fatal flaws in the programming. Once this world and its technology have been explored to its limits, the crime element of the narrative forgoes all its collective coolness resulting in a typical whodunnit-style mystery that fizzles into a who-cares climax. Owen makes a good cop, but apparently gumshoe clichés, like tobacco and the vintage cars driving throughout, remain woefully relevant. Maybe the true magic lies ahead in allowing rogue editor to hack together a more fitting finale.