ANON. Science fiction movie from the director of Gattaca

Before Black Mirror captured the hearts of the audience with the theme of “technological development and the resulting threats and erosion of human relationships,”…

Radosław Pisula

18 February 2024

ANON. Science fiction movie from the director of Gattaca

… a significant player in the refined and painfully disconcerting images of a tangible future was Andrew Niccol – grappling with the phenomenon of reality shows in The Truman Show (responsible for the screenplay), eugenics and DNA enhancement in Gattaca – a shock of the future, artificial intelligence in Simone, or the transformation of human life into currency in In Time.

His latest film, Anon was commissioned by Netflix, and unfortunately, it’s clear that after years, Niccol‘s voice on futuristic subjects is rather hoarse. After several seasons of Black Mirror, it’s challenging to come up with a fresh idea regarding the integration of technology into human life, and the creator doesn’t diverge much here, completely losing momentum in the second half of the film and dragging on until the end.

Anon Amanda Seyfried

Because the initial idea for Anon is quite clever and leaves plenty of room for exploration – we have a future world (strongly resembling our present), where each person is equipped with an electronic chip in their eyes at birth, which functions like a smartphone (allows making calls, browsing the internet, ordering pizza, identifying people on the street, and much more), and additionally records the person’s entire life in video form and saves it in the Ether (equivalent of our internet). On the one hand, this technology has eliminated any privacy for citizens, but on the other hand, there are no crimes thanks to it, as law enforcement can review any image from a suspect’s eyes and solve cases on the spot. However, the life of one of the detectives, Sal Frieland (Clive Owen), changes drastically when he starts pursuing a hacker who has “erased” herself from this seemingly perfect system – the woman is also suspected of murders, making the intimacy between the characters, based on lies, not promising a happy ending.

Anon Clive Owen

And initially, it works quite well – Niccol slowly introduces the viewer to the world of Anon, following Owen’s perspective and combining the display of technological curiosities with the convention of a dark crime drama and scenic minimalism, emphasizing the “transparency” of the future world. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that the plot had strength only for a good start here, and halfway through, it’s already struggling to breathe – the dissection of future voyeurism, where you can send memories to a friend and change your digital sins (meeting with a prostitute? The right hacker will turn it into a boring evening with pizza) is tempting and frightening, but the narrative doesn’t keep up with it; too slow, loose, as if aware that it has the plot for an intense episode of a series, not a full-length film.

Anon Rachel Roberts

The fact that the conflict here is tedious due to cardboard characters doesn’t help either – yes, they are decently acted, because Owen was born with a face for playing mannered detectives in trench coats, and Amanda Seyfried is a statuesque femme fatale, but their characters are not developed in any way, and the viewer has no reason to care about their fate. And the worst part is the finale of Anon, because Niccol tries to somehow summarize quite bizarre and accelerated solutions, some threads are pulled out of a hat, technological elements are somewhat sidelined, and a simple crime takes over the scene. And suddenly, the characters just throw a few phrases like fortune cookies, and the viewer wonders, “Is that it?”

Anon Clive Owen

Unfortunately, Anon is a stale film that lacks a concept for being a crime story, forgets too often that it’s science fiction, and as a film, it simply bores and doesn’t allow the specific cast to spread their wings. At times, it’s such a jaded production that, combined with Owen’s face, it feels like it’s about to collapse in on itself. You can watch it when you have more time on some evening, especially since it’s just a click away on Netflix, but it’s an intriguing idea broken down into pieces – completely forgettable after viewing, reminiscent of an unsuccessful episode of the aforementioned Black Mirror. It’s a pity because this is the second – after In Time – failure of Niccol on an interesting concept. Unfortunately, the future seems to have surpassed him for good.