It's a neat idea for a dystopian crime flick set in the ye olde "near future": Everything we see is recorded and archived in a central library accessed by police when a crime is committed. Furthermore, everything and everybody we see has become a head wrecking miasma of drop down menus packed with information, a Google of the central nervous system that would send the Zuck and admen into a tizzy of delight.
Watch our interview with Clive Owen and director Andrew Niccol
It’s a nightmare scenario for sure and one that’s all too feasible in our world of info overload, surveillance capitalism and tech addiction. Of course, this all makes things very easy indeed for the bored cops in Anon. They hardly need to summon up Holmesian powers of deduction while vaping on pipes in VR libraries to track down the baddies when a crime is actually committed.
The something strange happens. There is a glitch in the Matrix (ahem) with the discovery of a string of dead bodies across whatever anonymous looking city Anon is set. Someone has gone off the grid and is hacking into their victims' minds and offing them. Thing is, the murderer has also managed to give these unfortunate corpses a reverse POV of their own murders being committed, thus letting the murderer away scot free and giving the cops a real problem.
As world weary (and everybody in Anon is world weary) Detective Charles Gattis (Colm Feore) grinds out as he grinds out a cheroot into an ashtray the size of a small boat, "We've actually got ourselves a whodunit?"
The usually reliable and very watchable Clive Owen plays Sal Frieland (pun intended, no doubt), the Sam Spade of the piece. He's a grizzled detective with (shocker!) a drink problem who is haunted by the death of his young son in an accident he blames on himself. Owen doesn’t so much chew the scenery as have a staring match with it.
Essentially, Owen's Frieland is a none too subtle variation on the character he played in the excellent 2006 adaptation of PD James’ novel Children of Men. Sal is determined to track down the anonymous killer and the most likely suspect turns out to be a nameless femme fatale played by a game but slightly bored looking Amanda Seyfried in a black wig.
Niccol, who wrote and directed the superior sci-fi thriller Gattaca and directed the wonky Logan’s Run update In Time, is a director with a distinct visual style and all his trademarks are here; cool, linear architecture, lots of cheekbones, tailoring straight out of a forties gangster film, all shot in a hyper-real, near monochrome colour palette. There is also a fair share of nudity, which makes Anon look rather like a soft porn version of Minority Report made by a 16-year-old boy.
It does drip with a malicious kind of dread and it conjures up a real sense of disconnection in our hyper connected world but a disconnected audience may not have been Niccol’s aim. The clunky tough guy dialogue (mostly spoken from the side of the actors’ mouths) and deeply confusing and silly plot twists will have you eager to erase this from your memory banks well before the final credits roll.
Alan Corr @corralan