TL;DR – a sci-fi film that has been largely panned by critics is actually a real gem.
Review (warning: spoilers)
The use of technology to record evidence of criminal activity is nothing new (e.g. CCTV, digital recorders, facial recognition etc.) With the ever expanding advancements that allow social networking to connect us around the globe, and the increasing collection of personal information by corporations, the idea of “big brother” has allows loomed heavy over society and governments. The balance between human rights/privacy and law enforcement/monitoring through the use of technology is an ongoing challenge.
It’s also ripe material for creating dystopian sci-fi stories of which Anon examines in clever detail. The film starts with us following detective Sal Friedland (Clive Owen) walking to work, and through his eyes, we see that every person he focuses on, he can bring up all manner of information from name, age, address to social and biographical information. Law enforcement also have different clearance levels to access things like criminal history as well as be able to video replay past events as seen through those individuals.
The CGI effects are clean and minimalist in nature. They provide an augmented reality that I found engaging and immediately shows the viewer that we’re in a futuristic society. There’s a definite Matrix feel to the environment. We watch as Sal passes various civilians and profiles are brought up through his ocular enhancements, but when a female pedestrian (Amanda Seyfried) walks by and brings up an error (i.e. no profile and flagged as “Anon”), Sal pauses, puzzled and wondering if there’s a glitch in the system.
When a series of murders start to unfold, it becomes clear that someone has hacked the system and found a method to get away with the killings. This part of the story drew me in completely. What the killer does is take over the victim’s ocular system and transfers their sight to the killer’s view. Imagine seeing yourself through the eyes of the killer as they calmly walk up to you with gun in hand. Disorienting and confusing, you watch yourself beg, cry out, asking what is going on, only for your brains to be blown out. In this way, the victim never sees who kills them.
After further detective work, the Girl/Anon becomes linked to the killings and is the primary suspect. She has the ability to replace recorded histories with fake events and her services are sought by the wealthy. For example, a married man who has an affair can have the affair erased and replaced with innocuous events. So long as you pay her price in cash, she can create a whole new history for you. Sal goes undercover to hire her services and a cat and mouse game ensues. The twist to this sci-fi mystery is worth the wait in my opinion.
Clive Owen is a bit wooden as Sal. I’m not sure if that’s how the character is meant to be portrayed or not. In a world where practically all crime can be solved with little actual detective work because everything is recorded, his character is mostly bored at the beginning, but this picks up when the killings begin. Amanda Seyfried plays the femme fatale with conviction and her analog existence demonstrates a cautionary tale of our reliance on digital technology.
Critics (and many audience reviews) have panned the film as bland and lacking substance. I found it a pleasant surprise that mixed elements of Minority Report and neo-noir L.A. Confidential.
Anon may not reach the heights of either of those two films, but it is certainly better than some other bigger budget sci-fi offerings out there.
7 out of 10