Anon–Future crime has a new look in a great Netflix sci-fi movie

Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

Look for a believable (and likely inexpensive) use of simple technologies to show the visual cues the characters “see” that describe the names and basic detail of people encountered as they move around throughout each scene–much lower tech than the floating images of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.  In fact the erasing of memory procedure looks only a bit more advanced than the technology of leaving the real world for the Grid in the original Tron.  But it works.  It’s hard to believe the strange buildings and environments were filmed on location in Toronto, but it feels like the future, not the present.

Seyfried gives one of her best performances as a calm and careful problem solver, for those who can afford her skill set.  Her anonymous hacker takes Mr. Robot to the next level.

Anon was made with a low budget considering the stylish result, with none of the big expensive effects scenes typical for the genre.  Anything it may lack from its simplicity is trivial–Andrew Niccol’s classic style science fiction story all comes together to be something more than similarly conceived films like Minority Report and Inception.  It’s a look at the future we are quickly heading toward.

It’s rated TV-MA for some death scenes and nudity.  Stream Andrew Niccol’s sci-fi thriller Anon now only on Netflix.






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