Fans of Andrew Niccol will be all too than familiar with the director’s particular brand of Philip K Dick inspired output. From the timeless cult classic Gattaca which is set in a future where people are judged on the strength of their genetic make-up rather than on merit, to the slightly less well received In Time, in which time has replaced money as currency, creating a two-tier society in which only the rich can hope to live beyond the age of 25, Niccol has managed to leave a definite mark on the sci-fi genre with his brilliantly well observed high-concept ideas. Sadly, the same can’t be said about the director’s disappointing new offering Anon, a futuristic neo-noir thriller in the hardboiled tradition, which is unfortunately let down by a confusingly baggy script and a rather weak premise.
Clive Owen is Sal Friedland, a detective in a special police force set up to fight crime by accessing personal information made voluntarily available by everyone and therefore making anonymity a thing of the past. Divorced and still mourning the untimely death of his young son, Friedland finds himself on a case which has until now baffled his department; a serial killer is hacking into the memories of high profile victims and erasing all information which could link said killer to the murders. Enter Amanda Seyfried as a mysterious young hacker who has seemingly managed to remain anonymous, making it impossible for anyone to read her. Believing her to be responsible for the killings, Friedland sets up a trap by posing as a cheating rich playboy who wishes to employ her to hack into his own memories for money, in order to keep hi fiancée from finding out about his indiscretions.
The rest of the film soon falls into to the predictable, with Owen putting in a commendable turn as a man conflicted between his attraction to his mysterious mark, and his duty as an officer of the law. Amanda Seyfried does her best in a role which seems to demand very little of her, and is further let down by the seemingly gratuitous nudity throughout. Whilst purporting to offer a valid and timely commentary revolving around technology and privacy, Niccol comes unstuck by offering a messy story which is ultimately scuppered by a rather shaky and dated execution. Add to that the huge age gap between Seyfried and Owen, and you’ll be pressed to find anything positive about a story which promises so much, yet manages to deliver so little.
Overall, Niccol fails in his quest to deliver a believable social commentary piece, opting instead for an aimless storyline and some questionable gender cliches and tropes. Using noir imagery throughout, the director succeeds in part in imagining a near-future dominated by dehumanising technology, but other than adding anything new to this already well served genre, the writer director offers more of the same and is in the end unable to equal his groundbreaking early work. All in all, Anon leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth in a post- #Time’up landscape which deserves so much more than to have female protagonists presented in such predictable roles. Disappointing and problematic.