Nearly half way through 2018, it would be hard to say that there is a more pressing horror at play in the world today than realising just what Mark Zuckerberg and his techbro ilk hath wrought. It is no wonder then that Hollywood, ever helpful, is now taking it upon itself to predict what the consequences of such follies might look like.
The latest to do this, from New Zealand-born(!) director and screenwriter Andrew Niccol is Anon, a neo-noir thought experiment where anonymity itself has become the enemy.
Taking place in a not-so-distant future, Anon imagines a world where screens have merged with the mind’s eye – mediating, analysing and recording everything we see, and allowing it to be played back at will.
For Detective Sal Frieland (Clive Owen), this makes police work pretty straightforward: with every citizen saddled with an easily accessed visual record of everything they’ve ever seen and done, privacy is a thing of the past – that is, until he crosses paths with an enigmatic hacker (Amanda Seyfried) who has somehow managed to go off the grid, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake.
Like Minority Report and Black Mirror before it (both of which are clear inspirations here) Anon is concerned with the dark consequences of a digital utopia. As Seyfried’s nameless interloper wonders, with so much security why does it still seem so hard to feel safe?
If you’re looking for the answer to such questions, though, Anon is not the place to look.
Filtered through the perviest of male gazes, Niccol’s vision of modernity is strikingly dated while philosophically it has about as much substance as a Kanye tweet. Littered with cringy attempts at future cyber lingo (Seyfried’s diatribe against the analogue world vs the digital realm, for instance, might be more effective did she not refer to the former as “fleshspace”), at its best Anon is almost quaint.
For a time when digital privacy and surveillance could hardly be a more #hotbutton issue, Anon’s vision of a world without anonymity is strikingly banal – and ultimately amounts to little more than yet another half-baked cinematic finger waggle, reminding us that technology might be bad.