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Film / Anon

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"It's not that I have something to hide, it's that I don't have anything I want you to see."

Anon is an American 2018 neo-noir crime drama film set in a dystopian future where everyone by law has their memories stored online. Directed by Andrew Niccol, it stars Clive Owen as Detective 1st Class Sal Frieland and Amanda Seyfried as The Girl, an anonymous hacker being investigated by the former.

It was released worldwide on Mar 4, 2018 via Netflix.

Tropes in this work:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Technology is relatively unchanged, aside from the introduction of the implants. Dips into Alternate History given how cemented the technology is into society.
  • Advert-Overloaded Future: Large augmented reality advertisements are displayed all over the major skyscrapers, shops have AR models outside their stores, and window shopping is a whole lot more literal when the technology can simulate you wearing whatever is in the window.
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  • Applied Phlebotinum: The unnamed technology which the plot revolves around is an implant that records everything that they see and hear, saving it to the cloud. By law, everyone has one to boot. It also augments reality for interface and playback purposes, which is abused to induce hallucinations by elite-level hackers.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: The violent static when victims' points of view are shifted wouldn't happen in any conceivable computing scenario. At most, there might be one frame of distortion (at a more human-like frame rate, effectively undetectable) before immediately shifting to the killer's POV. In the event of lag, the victim might see a damaged feed not unlike the film's, but it would be the killer's damaged feed, not their own.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The movie's urban environments have a very grey, sterile feeling to them, with everything depicted right down to the smallest object as being in near-perfect order and synchronicity. Of course, this is to subtly make the film's dystopian, no-privacy-allowed society even creepier.
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  • Augmented Reality: This is a feature of the implant and is also its Achilles heel, capable of completely overriding a person's vision to technologically induce hallucinations.
  • Caught on Tape: Crime theoretically shouldn't exist because everyone is constantly recording their own actions - Sal's job at the beginning of the film is to review footage from suspected criminals to determine their guilt. But hackers are able to get around this by editing a criminal's memories to erase the crime (The Girl even points out a drug dealer who doesn't open his eyes while selling his illicit wares, preventing there from being any incriminating evidence in the first place).
  • Coitus Ensues: All of the sex scenes have little to no buildup. Sal is simply seen while having sex with a woman in the first case. The second is justified as she's a sex worker he hires. In the third, he and The Girl briefly flirt before they're shown having sex.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Two of the murder victims are sex workers that only appear in the scene to make out while topless, after which the killer shoots them both dead.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Anon" refers to both the mysterious, nameless Girl being pursued by the main character, as well as the broader concept of anonymity in an interconnected society and hacker groups by that name.
  • Dystopia: Privacy is dead, everyone is monitored constantly, and everyone knows everything about people they just met. The dull expressions on citizens' faces are due to them being smartphone zombies dialed Up to Eleven.
  • Epigraph: The film opens with lines from a 19th century poem expressing how the poet wants to be invisible even to God.
  • Everything Is Online: And how — in this world, hackers are gods because by law, everyone has the device connected to their mind's eye. It seems that pretty much every piece of machinery on Earth is connected to the aether as well.
  • Fanservice Extra: Two women appear in a single scene to have sex with Sal, then disappear. Another couple of women appear topless and making out before being murdered.
  • Film Noir: Smoking protagonists, pea coats, a bleak world, murder, the detective being framed, steamy affairs, and of course the obligatory plot twist... Anon is a clear-cut Neo-Noir film.
  • Frame-Up: We learn late in the film that The Girl didn't commit any of the murders, and is being framed by a jealous stalker who wants to help her disappear by destroying the human memory of her. This same individual frames Sal in the murder of his neighbor.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Throughout the film, there are actual freeze-frame backstories of several characters, even a kid in the alley that Sal interacts with briefly.
  • Hidden Villain: Late in the film, the true murderer appears after being lured by Sal, who in turn was manipulated by The Girl. He lasts about two minutes before being shot dead.
  • Holographic Terminal: The other future tech showcased in the film, it's only utilized in the bureau's conference room. Other "holography" is actually augmented reality from the implants.
  • Jitter Cam: Totally averted. Nearly all the footage recorded from the point of view of the characters is perfectly level, perfectly in focus, and totally smooth. Even from the point of view of characters who are running, climbing stairs, and firing weapons.
  • Let Off by the Detective: In one of Sal's cases shown early in the film, he's tasked with determining if a maid stole an expensive bracelet from a hotel room. In reviewing the maid's recording of the event, he finds that she did take the jewelry, and hock it to pay her rent. But Sal covers up the maid's crime... because of personal dislike for the client who accused the maid of theft. This example of the trope speaks less of the maid's sympathetic character, or Sal's desire to "to good" as a detective, than it does of the overall corruptness of the justice system and Sal's total disregard for rules.
    Client: I know where I left it. You can see in my record. I left it in the hotel bathroom. Show me the maid.
    Sal: Can't help you.
    Client: Well someone else came in. It didn't just walk out on its own.
    Sal: Wish I could.
    Client: We're leaving.
    Sal's Coworker: You didn't show her what happened a minute earlier. Or what happened four hours later when she [the maid] sold the bracelet to pay rent.
    Sal: There was just something about that woman that annoyed the f*ck out of me.
  • Magical Security Cam: Everyone in the world is essentially a security camera, with implants that record everything they see. But the footage taken from those human points of view is perfectly focused, cinematically composed, and never distracted, shaky, or impaired.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Amanda Seyfried as The Girl appears naked from the side multiple times, and also has a sex scene with Sal.
  • No Name Given: "The Girl" never tells Sal her real name, going by "Anon" online.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: Played with — seems to happen during most hacks such as memories being deleted or their POV being shifted, but it never happens when the hacker wants their victim to hallucinate.
  • Omniscient Database: Justified, as everyone can be lawfully monitored at any given time by the authorities. Only by closing one's eyes (or hacking) can they sneak around at all, as Sal did late in the film.
  • Online Alias: While presumably the world doesn't have such things, the hackers themselves do...with The Girl going by simply Anon.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: Lester Goodman is an ex-hacker consultant who traded jail time for a 30 year exclusive consultancy with the bureau. Later, it is discussed that the bureau will attempt to hire anons after Sal's investigation is derailed.
  • Second Person Attack: When Sal's implant is hacked, he's subjected to several hallucinatory attacks. The hacks include a man chasing him down an alley and beating him savagely, and a guard dog attacking him. Viewers see the same hacked footage Sal sees.
  • Sinister Surveillance: It's the basis of the film's dystopian society. Everyone is a camera, even the unconnected hackers.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: Just the sheer difficulty Sal had during the investigation made it clear that society has become over-reliant on the device in more ways than just criminal investigation. One of Sal's superiors even justifies this by throwing Sal under the bus for the system and his own corporate superiors.
  • There Is No Kill Like Over Kill: Despite getting the "end of file" message after shooting the male Anon dead, Sal shoots him several more times just to be certain. Justified, given faking the message would be child's play in comparison to some of the hacked hallucinations Sal was subjected to.
  • Third Act Stupidity: After spending months undercover trying to and succeeding in tracking down The Girl, Sal is treated to a hallucination of the building on fire and tries to shoot the fire with his sidearm. This allows the true villain to frame him and drives the last 20 minutes of the plot.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: At various points in the film, Sal's Augmented Reality implant is hacked to change his perception of the world in real time, causing him to hallucinate various things, such as a different flight of stairs in front of him, or the hallway outside his apartment being on fire. Because we're frequently seeing these events through his eyes, the viewer shares in his confusion.
  • Trickster Girlfriend: Sal is given the task to catch Anon/"The Girl", and there is definite sexual tension between them (including them actually having sex at one point).


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