It says a lot about how highly regarded Gattaca is to this day that writer-director Andrew Niccol has gone on to helm nearly a half dozen similarly pitched sci-fi projects in the two decades since without ever coming even vaguely close to the quality of his debut. Anon does nothing to challenge this, and, if anything, might be the most derivative work Niccol’s put out to date – it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Toby Kebbel Black Mirror episode – but it’s so slickly put-together and precision-crafted, it’s easy enough to lose yourself in the ebbs and flows of it’s otherwise perfectly serviceable techno-mystery.
Clive Owen is Sal Frieland, a dulcet cop in a world in which the entire human race is able to access information via bio-implants that serve as a heads-up display. Frieland soon discovers, however, that even his own eyes can’t be trusted when a murder puts him in the crosshairs of a mysterious young hacker (Amanda Seyfried) who has achieved the impossible – rendering herself Anon in a world in which such privacy gives her absolute power.
Niccol reteams with his frequent cinematographer Amir Mokri for this latest effort, and, to their credit, the pair do make good on the retro Mad Men aesthetic of the director’s latest creation. Not without its serious technical flaws (for a film that’s not intended for IMAX, a constantly shifting aspect ratio raises the eyebrows) and a need to keep proceedings as visibly cost-effective as possible without skimping on the gloss, Anon nonetheless works as a flighty and modestly cerebral thriller that plays around just enough with its own concept without becoming too showy.
In fact, it’s that lack of showiness that ultimately comes to define Anon – a film you could otherwise mistake for simply being low-energy. Casting Owen in the lead doesn’t help that confusion, the British actor about the best there is at delivering that very distinctive kind of low-key performance he’s made his career on to date. Seyfried admirably holds her own, and with the excellent Colm Feore (hey, remember when he was a Thor villain? Yeah, we forget that one) on hand to be “The Suit”, there’s capable talent here delivering solid work. What Anon can’t quite deliver, however, is much to startle or otherwise impress. A hodgepodge of sci-fi ideas largely done better elsewhere (that Black Mirror episode was so good that Robert Downey, Jr. bought it for a movie we never hear about anymore), Anon’s a solid enough hundred minute mystery thriller worth checking out between box sets, but not quite one worth giving up your Saturday night at the movies slot for.
Anon is in cinemas nationwide and on Sky Cinema from Friday, May 11th; rated 15. Check out the trailer below.