A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Anon is a 2018 science fiction movie in which Clive Owen plays a detective who must find a killer with no digital footprint in a world under constant surveillance. Characters are shot in the forehead at point-blank range; these murders are viewed from the point of view of the murderer. A father in search of his missing son views his son's final moments, and witnesses, through his son's point of view, his suicide by jumping off a building. Lead character has flashbacks of the day his son was struck by a car and killed. While going undercover, the lead character has sex with a prostitute -- images of them having sex in various positions. Other sex scenes involve the lead characters, mostly under the sheets. Brief nudity, male (buttocks) and female (breasts and buttocks). Two women are on the verge of having sex before they are shot and killed. "F--k" often used. Cocaine use. Cigarette smoking. Drinking.
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What's the story?
Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) is a detective in a world where crime has nearly been eliminated at the expense of privacy in ANON. Everything everyone sees is recorded and kept in "The Ether," and so solving crime is merely a matter of finding and playing back the recordings of the parties involved. Detailed information on all objects in sight scroll along the sides of everyone's field of vision. Buildings are draped in digital advertising. For the most part, Frieland's job in this world is unchallenging, but this changes when, one day on his walk to work, he passes a woman (Amanda Seyfried) who seems to have no identity or digital footprint. At the same time, Frieland begins to investigate a series of murders in which people with information they would prefer to keep secret are shot and killed at point-blank range. What distinguishes these murders is that the points of view of the victims are inaccessible, evidently hacked by the killer. In order to track down this killer, Frieland must go undercover. He creates a new identity in The Ether, sleeps with a prostitute, then goes into The Ether in search of anyone who can hack into his mind and erase that memory so his "wife" never finds out. The anonymous woman he passes on the street reaches out, and it's up to Frieland to figure out if she's the one behind these killings, how she remains off the grid and why she chooses to do so, and how the killer can be stopped before Frieland is next.
Is it any good?
This is just a so-so sci-fi thriller. Like the best sci-fi, it takes a theme and explores it to its fullest extent and uses that theme to make a comment on contemporary realities. Privacy, surveillance, and information overload are presented directly in the story, and indirectly in the points of view of the characters, as everyone and everything they see is accompanied by the facts about them across their field of vision. However, like the worst of sci-fi, the story itself doesn't hold up under the weight of the themes and the presentation of this near-future world.
Indeed, the first half of the movie is engaging as we experience this world, and the world of a detective in which nearly all crime has been eliminated, and when problems do arise, it's simply a matter of accessing the memories of the victims and perpetrators of the act. The references to social media, Google, Reddit, and the internet as a whole are creative and provocative. But as the second half of the movie goes on, the story itself becomes surprisingly predictable. It doesn't take much to figure out which of the secondary characters is going to get murdered. It turns into a "whodunit" in which there's no surprise as to the identity of the "unexpected character" behind the killings. Overall, Anon is a mixed bag.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about science fiction movies. How does Anon compare to other sci-fi movies?
How did the movie use the science fiction genre to explore themes relevant to our society, such as privacy and surveillance in the digital age?
How do you think technology will change in the future? How will these advances benefit or hurt society?
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