Anon review: A serviceable genre thriller

Photo Credit: Netflix
Photo Credit: Netflix /

Andrew Niccol return to the big screen Anon is certainly a mix bag, but its inspired stylistic choices make a genuine impact. 

It’s always fascinating when a proven and talented filmmaker begins to struggle. Andrew Niccol, director of Gattica and writer of The Truman Show, was once lauded as a genius for his inspired takes on the science fiction genre. After duds like In Time and The Host however, Niccol’s cache in the industry has fallen off considerably, so much so that his latest is being released straight to Netflix.

That film is Anon, another project in which Niccol serves as both director and writer. Set in a world that has rendered anonymity nonexistent due to the constant access to other people’s memories; the film follows Sal, a detective who is put to the test when he discovers someone has successfully hacked themselves off the grid.

Photo Credit: Netflix
Photo Credit: Netflix /

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Anon strives to be both a thoughtful allegory for our internet-obsessed times, as well as a genre thriller that builds an involving mystery. While I can’t say the film pulls both goals off with perfection, Anon does enough to be watchable.

Niccol’s return as a director is fairly successful, as he brings an effective stylistic dynamic to the film. Similar to his work on the drone-based war drama Good Kill, Niccol uses a lot of handled camerawork to create perspective shots of what our characters see when connected to the data center. This decision proves to be the movie’s biggest benefit, as Niccol often is able to create unique setpieces out of relatively familiar scenes. Even when the film struggles, Niccol is able to at least kept the audience engaged with the many tricks he has up his sleeve.

Acting-wise, the veteran cast makes the most out of what they have. It’s nice to see Clive Owen as the lead for a movie again, with his cool demeanor and solid acting ability always making him a good inclusion. He is able to sell most of the emotional thrust of the movie despite the lack of substance on the page. Amanda Seyfried is fine in her role as the character of interest, but its a shame the movie couldn’t given her more to work with considering her talent. Thankfully, the rest of the supporting cast is good in their respected roles and bolster the material.

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The point I have danced around is that Anon‘s script just isn’t very good. Niccol’s take on privacy is certainly relevant, but the execution is far more heavy-handed than it is genuine. The film’s final scene in particular is almost laughably-bad, as the character’s spell out the film’s agenda without an ounce of subtly. The mystery plot line her does start out interesting, but goes nowhere of interest as the resolution is far more convenient than it is interesting.

While it’s a shame Niccol has lost is writing touch, Anon is still a marginally-successful science fiction flick that should divert fans of the genre. Based on the premise and the cast however, this could have been so much more.

Anon is now available on Netflix.