By Dave B.
Since it started making original content, the quality of Netflix’s English-language original sci-fi movies has been all over the map. For each What Happened to Monday (which I loved), there have been half a dozen movies like Mute (which I found to be…underwhelming; review here). ANON (Netflix), is definitely more favorably comparable to the former, as far as quality and watchability are concerned.
ANON takes place in a near-future society where every moment of everyone’s life is recorded by some sort of optical implant. The police can access anyone’s recording at any time, so although crime still occurs, the perpetrator is always caught. Detective Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) is tasked with finding a killer who manipulates the implant of their victims, forcing them to watch their own murder through the killers eyes and making it impossible for the police to identify the killer despite omnipresent surveillance.
ANON certainly has some flaws. The pace slows down during most of the second half of the movie. The plot is fairly predictable and the resolution of the case is emotionally unsatisfying because of that predictability. That said, Owen is solid as usual and Amanda Seyfried as “The Girl” (that’s literally what her character is called in the credits, hence the title of the movie) brings a fascinating energy to her mysterious character.
What I really liked about ANON is that it is probably the most accurate film representation of how I envision augmented reality being used in society when it becomes widely adopted and accepted. A biography of every person pops up in your vision whenever you look at someone. Do you see a watch that you like as you are passing a storefront? You can see what it would look like on your wrist just by lifting your arm. And anonymity and privacy are concepts that only outsiders and misfits give any consideration. Director Andrew Niccol does a great job of immersing viewers into a near-future world that isn’t quite a dystopia, but in which freedom and privacy, as we currently conceive of them, potentially threaten the lives and well-being of everyone.
ANON certainly isn’t going to win any Best Picture nominations, but it’s a solid sci-fi movie with an interesting concept and it didn’t bore me. I think it’s definitely worth 100 minutes of your time, particularly if you like to think about the philosophical and practical implications of a society in which secrets are largely impossible. 6/10