Anon is the latest Big Brother Thriller, this time coming courtesy of Andrew Niccol, a writer-director at this point known more for the ideas behind his movies than the actual execution. He brings big and creative premises, but whether or not the movie winds up capitalizing on them seems almost random at this point. I mean, Gattaca was over 20 years ago, you guys. Do you feel old?
This time, he’s created a world in which everything everyone does is recorded by their “Mind’s Eye,” a POV camera in their eyes. The police have access to these recordings, significantly reducing crime. If the victim sees you, you’re hooped. But, recently, there have been a string of murders in which the victim’s POV has been replaced with the killer’s. Other footage winds up doctored, too. So, it’s up to a detective (Clive Owen) to figure out who’s doing the killing, as well as who’s messing with the footage. The latter is easy: it’s an anonymous hacker (Amanda Seyfried). But she’s hard to track down and someone from whom getting answers is like pulling teeth. Time to put those detective skills to work!
Anon opens strong and remains pretty solid for about 2/3 of its running time. The worldbuilding, the technology, and the way that the “rules” are being circumvented by people seemingly outside of the system is all enough to get our interest. And that makes the final third, where the film devolves into a pretty generic potboiler with little thematic or dramatic payoff, all the more disappointing.
It doesn’t get anywhere interesting, it doesn’t want to use its world to say anything about its primary difference from our own, its characters don’t become anything more than Generic Detective and Wonder Hacker, and the plot drops off a cliff. We’re moving along at a decent clip, we get a very interesting development when our protagonist has real-time hacking take place with his Mind’s Eye, causing intense hallucinations … and then Anon feels like it’s run out of ideas and has to figure out a way to wrap up its murder plot thread—and does so in an uninteresting, uninspired way.
It doesn’t help that leading man Clive Owen doesn’t seem particularly invested in the proceedings. He sleepwalks his way through most of the film—even the supposedly “emotional” scenes that give us a bit of character context as to how he ended up this way. He’s the “troubled detective,” clinging onto something in his past, because that’s how most of these characters are, and all the creativity went to the premise, I guess. Amanda Seyfried isn’t in it enough and doesn’t have much of a character, anyway, in order to leave much of an impact.
Anon is an interesting movie for 2/3 of its running time before suddenly falling off a cliff when it needs to start reaching its conclusion. It becomes a disappointment in the way that it gives us this creative world and doesn’t do much with it. There’s little payoff—the only thing we get is a conclusion to its main plot, which is one of its least interesting parts. Much like at least a couple of other Andrew Niccol movies, it has a great idea that never reaches its potential.
Conclusion: Anon has a cool main idea but doesn’t capitalize on its potential.
Recommendation: Anon is a decent watch for 2/3 of its running time. If that sounds like a decent Netflix watch to you, have at it.