In a world without anonymity or crime, a detective (Clive Owen) tracks a killer who is able to mask their identity by projecting their own sight into their victims before their death.


 


When Andrew Niccol first arrived on the scene with the excellent Gattaca, there was a real sense that a burgeoning talent was coming to the surface that could effectively blend noir with sci-fi in a way not seen since the likes of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Gattaca was released in 1997 and over two decades later, Niccol is covering the same ground again and again with the likes of In Time and Anon. The problem is that with Anon, the execution and story is so lacklustre and ineffective that it's impossible to get to a point where you even care. The idea behind Anon - that anonymity comes with a price and that it's too often traded away for a sense of security - isn't anything particularly new or fresh in today's world of social media, but Niccol's script somehow makes it seem oddly staid and boring.


So many scenes involving Clive Owen, Colm Feore and Amanda Seyfried staring off into nothing and growling their lines to one another, but the film then flits over to what they're seeing and it's equally dull - all sparse and elegant rooms with a steadicam moving through them. The murder-mystery element of the plot - that the killer is supposedly able to project their own sight into the victims so that they effectively see their faces twisted in fear before they die - is intriguing the first time it's deployed, but the film never seizes on it in an effective way and for a society that's supposedly meant to be crime-free because of the lack of anonymity, nobody seems terribly pushed about all the dead bodies that keep turning up.


Clive Owen, for his part, does what he can with a lifeless script - but you get the sense he's sleepwalking his way through most of the scenes whilst Amanda Seyfried confuses alluring mystery with an utter lack of personality or performance. We know she's meant to be a blank slate, that she's hidden herself from a world that does the opposite, but the result on screen is so lacking in any humanity that it's impossible to connect with. Likewise, the supporting cast don't really do all that much in the way of making things seem more believable and the cinematography's constant use of grey makes for a particularly bland experience. There's no life to any of it, and it's all so joyless that you're readying yourself for the end of it all by the second act.


The obvious comparison for Anon would be to call it a Black Mirror rip-off and leave it at that, but that's a disservice to Black Mirror as they at least tried to interact and incorporate the perils of technology in an inventive way. Here, it's done so feebly and ineffectually that ends up like some kind of PSA against social media and the internet told by someone who's never actually used it.