A murder mystery set in a privacy-free world, Anon, if not entirely original, is an intriguing twist on the crime thriller with a topical ethical slant.
Anon follows detective Sal Frieland, a troubled man trying to find norm in a world where privacy does not exist. All lives are recorded and archived, a valuable asset to the detectives investigating the petty crimes of the inner city. That is until the detectives are faced with a case that cannot be solved by looking through the eyes of their subjects. An anonymous criminal executes a string of murders, leaving no evidence behind, testing the police force and pushing detective Frieland to his psychological limits.
Anon explores a world in which human lives and actions are constantly recorded, where it is the norm to broadcast your day to anyone who requests so, and a world in which pursuing privacy is treated as an act of rebellion. Anon’s primary theme is that of complete human transparency, your name is known upon a glance, your history neatly organized in profile fashion and everything you see is open to being watched. The detective business has never been this easy; petty thieves forgetting to close their eyes when stealing jewelry are easily detained. Much like the internet, no matter where you start, go through enough links, or in this case people’s archives, and you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.
The design of Anon is remarkable in style; augmentation is the way of the world. With constant special effects layering the world of cyberspace and reality, it’s easy to become familiar with trying to read the details of the individuals walking by. A curious thing to happen, considering ideally the human race appreciate their privacy. You’ll find yourself eager to read the tantalizing history of the characters passing by, even tempted to pause the film to catch their secrets. A demonstration of the hedonistic nature of human curiosity, an important topic of discussion in Anon’s narrative.
Amanda Seyfried plays a character known only as “The Girl”, a nameless woman who commits her time to erasing footage and videos of deeds people want to disappear. The Girl’s customers range from the cheating husband looking to erase last night’s escapades to the far more interesting homicide indecencies. Seyfried’s nuanced character keeps viewers intrigued and inquisitive. With no data trail or profile to glance at, Seyfried manages to play a character so closed off, yet completely exposed, her attitude and speech honest in intent, whilst revealing nothing about her past or present, successfully keeping the audience keen to know more and fuelled with the desire to understand her motives.
Clive Owen plays the lead role as Sal Frieland, a man on a journey to understand what it means to be private. Playing a troubled detective, Owen’s character essentially plays the role of key questioner, lending himself to act as the voice of reason always asking the thoughts that come to the audience’s heads. Although interesting enough, Owen’s character is rather 2-D; he seems to primarily act as the moral consciousness throughout, not providing too much to be excited about but enough to keep audiences watching.
This being said Anon‘s strengths lie in it’s convincing visual effects, so subtle on-screen that you forget that seeing pointers and object descriptions in your environment is not commonplace. The visuals are truly sophisticated in design; the only flaw to this illusion is when shots are filmed from the first-person perspective, so smooth in its steady cam quality that Anon‘s immersion is compromised; as this is a frequent occurrence in the film, often the viewer is disrupted. A human unfortunately does not move so robotically and thus this effects the believability of the shot, distracting the viewer from the narrative.
Overall Anon is very much akin to themes of other entertainments such as Black Mirror and the video game Watch_Dogs. Certainly the idea of augmentation is not original, nor the idea of seeing through another’s eyes, or archiving your memories. This being said, Anon brings its voice in the question of “what if we have nothing to hide, just nothing we want you to see?” guiding audiences through a moral battle of privacy versus “public safety”. Sure, these techniques would make policing a much easier career, but when it adapts in a way that your relatives and spouses can check your whereabouts, or it becomes the norm to read a person’s history at a glance, is it really worth it? Anon is an intriguing watch and a curious look at data protection and what it costs to truly have a private life.