Netflix has an over-saturation problem. As the company churns out one original film after another, the difficulty these titles naturally face is how to stand above the pack, and push back against the narrative slowly gaining traction that much of Netflix's original film content is taking the place of the dreaded direct-to-video format - albeit on a much grander scale.
True, films of note still appear, but increasingly for every Meyerowitz Stories, My Happy Family or Mudbound, there's a Mute, War Machine or, sadly, Anon, Netflix's latest feature.
The pedigree behind Anon is certainly there – Andrew Niccol is something like sci-fi cult royalty for his involvement in 2000s brain-twister Gattaca. Unfortunately, Anon squanders much of that goodwill early on.
A tiresome tech-noir in the vein of a mid-grade Black Mirror episode, the film follows Clive Owen's Sal, a grim-faced detective in a lazily-sketched future metropolis in which all citizens have technologically advanced eyes that supplement the wearer's vision with added information (think Google Glass, but grafted on to your eye).
When Sal comes across Anon (Amanda Seyfried), a woman without any digital footprint tied to some lurid murders, he becomes hopelessly drawn into a world where what he sees may not be entirely trustworthy.
What Anon has going for it is the strength of Niccol and cinematographer Amir Mokri's visuals – the film is clearly restricted by budget to a few minimal sets and visual effects and, for the most part, they make it work by finding interesting, strange angles and frames. Niccol clearly aims to evoke classic noir films with his heightened shadows and urban textures.
However, while the film's central concept is, if hardly groundbreaking, at least somewhat compelling, Niccol is so determined to evoke noir in his storytelling – from the tortured detective to the sexy femme fatale to the deeply problematic depiction of women throughout the film – that any twists and turns can be seen from miles away.
It doesn't help that Niccol has kept the film purposefully sterile and detached (because technology steals our identities, y'know?), meaning that Owen and Seyfried – naturally emotive performers – rarely get a chance to play anything beyond scowls and smoulders.
Niccol has approached the material in an interesting way with an admirable message about tech privacy, but ultimately this murder mystery is mostly just a slog.
Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried
Slow and uninvolving, Anon may have been better off away from the public eye.