In Andrew Niccol’s ‘Anon’, a practically crime-free society is the result of our eyes recording everything we see, with digital databases infinitely unfolding as we pass people on the street. What if you just want a croissant? Bit of a nightmare, to be quite honest.
With ‘utopia’ comes a price, of course: privacy is out the window, anonymity down the toilet. Clive Owen is hard-boiled gumshoe Sal Frieland, a cop investigating a slew of murders committed by someone who’s somehow hacking their victims and leaving no trace. A femme fatale, played by Amanda Seyfried, provides some cat-and-mouse shenanigans as Sal follows leads, hits walls and swears like a sailor.
Niccol has a strong voice. The writer of reality-TV prophesying ‘The Truman Show’ and writer-director of eugenics sci-fi ‘Gattaca’, human-simulation yarn ‘S1m0ne’ and drone-warfare thinkpiece ‘Good Kill’ clearly gets his kicks mixing tech with moral quandaries. If it all sounds a bit ‘Black Mirror’, it is, although Niccol basically invented ‘Black Mirror’ (figure of speech, lawyers).
With our own governments quite keen on enacting such a future asap, this is fertile, pertinent material. Alas, it’s also all a bit obvious, and feels too much like a male fantasy – a sort of silly ‘Total Recall’ mission, with your man doing lots of running, shooting, sexing and tough-guy dialogue while a distracting surplus of bare breasts go on display.
Niccol has worthy things to say in this, a healthy kickback against an inevitable future, but hammers it home with a sledgehammer, the philosophy smothered by glum, hokey noir. By the end, he’s dispensed with subtext altogether, leaving us with more of a lecture than a parable. Nevertheless, there is some freaky fun here. Niccol’s food for thought leaves a lingering taste.