One of those near-future escapades where the execution is barely a match for the idea, Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried give it all they’ve got in Anon.
Starring respectively as a hardened detective and an anonymous shadowy figure who spends a lot of time in broad daylight, in a world where memories, any memory, can be resurrected, law enforcement functions much like the dystopic Minority Report bureau, except recollections are readily available from everyone. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1m0ne, In Time) and taking place in a largely familiar, innominate city bereft of privacy for the benefit of order, a killer, unidentifiable and off the grid, soon begins terrorising citizens, leaving no trace in their wake.
The especial, gruesomely macabre manner in which the killer dispatches their victims deserves particular note, distinguishing itself amongst proceedings for being both extremely clever and abundant originality.
Exuding an Equilibrium-esque, neo-noir sheen that’s never confident enough to imbue its characters with the emphatic moods or mannerisms to match the yet-burgeoning hellscape it’s trying to impart, dialogue that would otherwise be at home in more aesthetically-driven drama falls flat amid that which heavily leans on the styles of police procedurals we’ve seen time and time again. House of Card’s Colm Feore, playing the exposition-heavy precinct-stalwart we know well from say, Blade Runner, commenting that they have to ‘de-anonomise’ the threat is clearly not as sinister as intended.
Falling back on a few regretful coincidences and character choices to advance the plot, most notably the two main figures just running into each other in the opening frames, does little justice to an otherwise excellent conceit, the promise of which is not substantively realised. Fairly, this and other instances throughout could just as well be the result of the manipulative potential of the film’s prevailing technology which soon unleashes its horrors. Rather than exploring this facet in greater detail however, Anon becomes preoccupied with the less compelling interplay between it’s leads which in tone and substance advances little beyond the early, charged dialogue as each seeks to test the other.
Reaching its zenith, and a thrilling one at that in the third act, the chaotic, terrifying implications of being able to influence a person’s perceptions, past and present, lead to some engrossing eventualities and visual thrills. One escape sequence, where a character attempts to circumvent the overpowering consequences of the system, is hands down the best of the film and unlike many goings-on a logical extension of this particular technology’s advancements and failings.
The denouement, as rendered here never so intuitive as it is perfunctory and in some respects inevitable, is markedly uncompelling, as is a regretful and largely unnecessary conclusion where the writers’ clear predilections regarding some characters’ views on privacy come, all too explicitly, to the fore. An inversion of the classic and oft-seen walk into the distance is, nonetheless, handled with surprising elegance.
A shrewd premise and a (mostly) thrilling third act far surpassing most else, Anon advances more interesting ideas that it does moments.
Anon is now streaming on Netflix