Andrew Niccol frequently likes to create what if dystopias and futures Gattaca comes with the premise of what if there was a future where everybody was genetically perfected, In Time with the concept of what if there was a future where time literally is money?. With Anon, Niccol spins out another what if scenario imagining a future where our current world of mass surveillance by the NSA and internet companies like Google and Facebook is taken to a logical extreme and then postulates how hackers would work and someone could maintain total anonymity in such a world.
The world that Niccol creates is never more fascinating than in the opening scenes where we see Clive Owen walking through the streets. Here Niccol expands upon current ideas about augmented reality to imagine a world where Owen sees everybody walking about with personal id tags hovering over their heads, where commercial items come with little pop-ups offering detail and information and, somewhat akin to the world in Blade Runner (1982), advertising has been virtually superimposed over buildings. We also see Clive Owen going about his job as a detective searching for the last memory records of a teen who has committed suicide by a father searching for his whereabouts or a rich woman (Niccols wife Rachel Roberts) who wants to check the memory records of the maid in her room she thinks stole her missing jewellery. And then come the fascinating scenes invisibly hacking into Amanda Seyfrieds optics and trying to get traces of where she is to arrest her only to realise that she is avoiding being tracked by never looking at her surroundings, or the scenes where Clive Owen creates a fake identity and she hacks in to delete and replace his memories. It adds up to one of the most fascinating and original depictions of a future that I have seen in a science-fiction film in some time.
You do have one or two likelihood questions about the world created. Nobody seems to use passwords to protect their memories and everybodys data is on display for all to see. While the film does show some people wanting memories erased, it seems astonishingly easy for police and the hackers to access peoples heads. What would have helped is maybe a scene that indicated people had to get through privacy walls and/or obtain warrants to do so. The other thing that left me confused was the differentiation between human memory and the visual backups that everyone has. Are these one and the same? When Clive Owen reacts with horror to the fact that Amanda Seyfried has deleted records of his son, does that also mean she has deleted his actual memories or just the visual images? If Amanda deletes his memory record of her, how is he able to say he wants to see her again or indeed recognise she is the same person he saw in the street? There seems some differentiation being made between memory and recording but the film fails to create a clear distinction between the two. The twist that comes near the end where [PLOT SPOILERS] Amanda Seyfred reveals she is not the killer needed more development and the revelation of the identity of the killer comes far too hurriedly. Otherwise though, this is exceptional writing.
All of Andrew Niccols science-fiction films have a unique almost homogenous design scheme coolly disquiet interiors, men outfitted in 1950s suits and fedoras, slightly modified classic cars, muted and/or shadowless lighting schemes. Niccol uses the same here but the motif he puts on Anon is to create a world that exists almost entirely in desaturated greys Clive Owen wears grey suits, the walls and halls of the police station are made of massive blocks of stone, the streets seem predominantly grey in their shadings. Clive Owen and the actors frequently shot dwarfed against bare spaces of walls, sitting at massive tables or outlined against windows looking out on the city.