Eye can't believe this!
Anon is directed and written by Andrew Niccol and stars Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Feore, Mark O'Brien, Sonya Walger, Joe Pingue, and Iddo Goldberg.
There is an episode of the TV series Black Mirror in which people are able to record anything and everything that they see, do, and hear on any given day. People can then play back these recordings in front of their eyes, and this can potentially threaten a person's privacy, as well as expose any and all secrets a person might be trying to hide. So while it might be a bit extreme to accuse director-writer Andrew Niccol of "stealing" from Black Mirror (Black Mirror is mostly a modern-day Twilight Zone), the fact of the matter is that Anon's premise is not at all original. Black Mirror made good work of this "people capable of recording everything" idea in the 44 minute episode, "The Entire History of You", so it's not like a motion picture using this idea was an absolute necessity. But y'know, anything and everything is obligated to have a movie nowadays, so cue Andrew Niccol.
The story of Anon takes place in a modern day world where everyone is subject to the "Mind's Eye", a visual stream where everyone's personal information is available, capable of being downloaded on a grid known as "the Ether." Because of the Ether, law enforcement can track a person's every movement, thus leading to all crime being non-existent. But when a series of strange murders begin to occur, the police are unable to discover the killer(s). Police detective Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) investigates the murders and suspects that they are all connected. His investigation leads him to a woman (Seyfried) who has no identity within the Mind's Eye, leading Sal to believe that someone has compromised the Mind's Eye system.
Anon utilizes a grey color palette in its cinematography and overall visual display, which sends a series of mixed signals that give off more pessimistic vibes than optimistic ones. To start with, the movie appears to be on a mission to be as joyless as possible, having the notion that it can better achieve its ambitious goals by drowning its characters and its settings in a sea of grey color schemes. Secondly, because of how much grey is on hand, Anon makes it very hard on itself to win any points for aesthetic pleasure. It's one thing to be artistic in using shades of grey to enhance the quality of your artwork. Anon, however, offers nothing to suggest that it even has a minimal interest in being aesthetically pleasing. I mean, was there any specific goal in mind from Niccol that called for the use of so much grey? If Niccol's goal was to have the color scheme match the mood of his characters, well then, he achieved that goal with flying colors.
- In a movie that's overflowing with grey (and quite a bit of torpor as well), Amanda Seyfried offers some consolation with a performance that implies she's trying. She shows flashes of energy here and there, and once the plot fully kicks in, she becomes the glue that manages to keep everything from falling apart. Beyond that, unfortunately, there's nothing else really worth mentioning.
- The nice things I can say about Seyfried I cannot say about the likes of Clive Owen and the other actors, all of whom sleepwalk through this movie with the enthusiasm of cardboard. This is really what I mean when I asked if Andrew Niccol's goal for using an almost entirely grey color palette was to match the moods of his characters. Everyone here is acting like they're trying to blend in with the grey, attempting to match its dullness. The lone exception is Seyfried, whose like a grey with a few splotches of red on her. So in other words, the characters (again, minus Seyfried) are boring as all hell, as if everyone is secretly doing their best Steven Wright impression.
- Also not helping is the plot, which takes forever and a day to get going. This should be illegal for a 100 minute film. Seyfried doesn't make her presence felt until around the 30 minute mark, and Niccol fails at making scenes that focus purely on atmosphere and character development at least somewhat engaging. Then once all is said and done, you might be further disappointed to realize that not very much happened. Gee, it's almost like the premise would've been perfectly suited for a 45-50 minute television episode!
So featuring way too much greyness, several dull characters, and a plot that struggles to make much of anything out of itself, Anon can't help but be seen as a disappointment. Amanda Seyfried does her best to save the film, but even her talents can't overcome Andrew Niccol's sloppy direction and iffy writing. The movie is basically wasted potential, because there are ways of making the "people recording everything they see and hear" premise work for a feature film. Niccol doesn't find any of those ways, however. Black Mirror found a way to make the premise work, thankfully. Well, at least for television.
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