Anon: All we’re missing is a story worth caring about

Review: Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried cannot save ‘Gattaca’ director’s sketchy sci-fi

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Director: Andrew Niccol
Cert: 16
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Feore, Charles Gattis, Mark O'Brien
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins

The people behind noir science fiction are going to be enormously disappointed if cops and private detectives don’t soon return to wearing hats and smoking cigs. Versions of the future with heroes so dressed are now more common than speculations featuring people in zippered jumpsuits.

They're at it again in Andrew Niccol's half-baked speculation on the information age. Just look at sinister Colm Feore in his snap-brimmed triby and thin-lapelled suit. Watch Clive Owen suck back on the tabs. 2047 (or whenever) is 1947 again.

Niccol is probably still best known for Gattaca, a dystopian cult hit that somehow or other is now 21 years old. Like his terrible 2011 thriller In Time, Anon feels like a sketchy spin-off from that earlier film. Amanda Seyfried is back in the same black wig she wore for In Time. The brutalist architecture is in place. All we're missing is a story worth caring about.

The key high concept has some narrative possibilities. In this future, everybody's consciousness is recorded and as citizens walk through the streets they see a dropdown menu before every object encountered. So, your lunch might be labelled "all-beef hotdog on white roll". And so on. All this should make life easy for cops such as Sal Frieland (Owen), but somebody is messing with the system. People are being murdered and, as the assault takes place, having their own point-of-view replaced with that of the killer.


Imposing explanatory information on the screen is a one-off gift for Niccol the screenwriter. No character need be introduced. All you need to know is there in black and white. Sadly, the messages flit by too quickly to take in and Niccol seems uninterested in teasing the possibilities.

His greater concern is a muddled conspiracy that requires you to give a hoot about inconsequential characters to the extreme left of the frame.

The Orwellian warnings are too familiar. The post-noir stylings are more exhausting still. None of that is so eye-watering as the hilariously “saucy” lesbian scene apparently beamed in from a 1980s Zalman King joint. “Oh, I’m so hot, Sally. I think I’ll take off my blouse.” They don’t really say that. But they might as well.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist