REVIEW: Anon by Andrew Niccol

Anon is a 2018 science fiction thriller by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Simone, The Host, In Time). Andrew Niccol really loves his science fiction movies that have high concepts and while I think The Host and In Time are two of the worst science fiction programs I’ve ever watched, I also think Gattaca and Simone are some of my all-time favorites. Anon is a bit grittier and more cyberpunk with its plot, which automatically puts it above many of the others.

AnonThe premise is in the future, everyone in the world has had cameras installed in their eyes. Either the eyes are artificial, or they’ve had nanotechnology upgraded to do it. Everyone’s lives have been put on eternal record and they can be accessed at will. It’s a bit similar to the premise of the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You.” Indeed, it’s arguably a little too similar but if you’re going to steal then steal from the best. Whereas “The Entire History of You” is about the applications of these cameras in personal relationships, Anon is a straightforward police procedural. Detective Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) has an incredibly boring job as their job is now rote with everyone’s memories accessible. This doesn’t decrease police corruption as the law is still subject to police whims as Sal lets a thief go just because he despises a snooty victim.

Sal is a classic depressed character as he broke up with his wife over his son dying in a car accident that resembles the opening of the video game Heavy Rain. Unlike “The Entire History of You”, this is probably not an inspiration but just a coincidence. He constantly goes over the memories of his dead son and sleepwalks through life. This is until he encounters a girl whose digital information is not available, an Anon (Amanda Seyfried).

Sal soon finds himself investigating multiple murders carried out by an unknown killer but believed to be by Anon. All of the victims are former lovers of her, both male and female, as well as clients. They have their eyes hacked, then, and are forced to watch from their killer’s perspective as he guns them down. Anon is a suspect not just because of her connection to the victims because she turns out to be a hacker who can erase as well as alter memories.

The plot almost immediately falls apart due to the bizarre and salacious way that the police try to trap Anon. This involves having Clive Owen buy a high-class hooker, sex scene onscreen, and ask to have the memory erased. Which, of course, leads to Anon striking up an affair with him. The plot makes no sense because at no point do they arrest the suspect in multiple murder or bring her in for interrogation. Why? Because we need to have Anon and Sal begin to have an affair.

It’s blindingly obvious that Anon is nothing more than a white-collar criminal from the beginning but none of the police ever entertain the possibility that she’s being stalked by someone obsessed with her, which is pretty obvious to anyone who has watched cop shows let alone presumably actually part of the police force. The movie seems to think we won’t figure this out ourselves and leaves the reveal much-much too late.

Despite this, I generally liked Anon as a film. While the investigation makes no sense and I’m not even covering the other plot holes like why the police don’t take Sal at his word that someone is messing with his sight, the scenes where his brain his hacked are genuinely terrifying. Clive is a veteran actor and manages to make the most of the weak material he’s given. Sal may be a somewhat archetypal character, but I felt his pain and found him to be charming.

Amanda Seyfried’s Anon is also a character that is written to be a kind of catnip for viewers who are fan of cyberpunk hackers, mysterious femme fatales, and rebellious antiheroes. So, understand that I am completely biased toward her. Much of the movie objectifies her but the character is aware of this and plays into it in an interesting way.

In conclusion, the movie is worth watching just for the science fiction elements and strong performances. Some people may not appreciate the romance between Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried given their twenty-year age difference but YMMV. I do think it’s a three-star film rather than four, though, and just barely because it’s my genre.

Watch Anon by Andrew Niccol

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CT Phipps

CT Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He's the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga. He is also a frequent contributor to Grimdark Magazine.

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