dir-scr Andrew Niccol
prd Andrew Niccol, Daniel Baur, Oda Schaefer, Oliver Simon
with Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried, Colm Feore, Sonya Walger, Mark O'Brien, Joe Pingue, Iddo Goldberg, Sebastian Pigott, Rachel Roberts, Ethan Tavares, Marco Grazzini, Conrad Coates
release US 4.May.18, UK 11.May.18
18/US 1h40
Off the grid: Seyfried

owen seyfried feore
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Anon With his usual attention to detail, filmmaker Andrew Niccol creates a futuristic thriller that plays out like a murky noir mystery, complete with a femme fatale. The design is relentlessly grey, and the pacing is sometimes achingly slow, as the actors speak their dialog word by hesitant word. But there's a mesmerising quality to the story, and Niccol's finely imagined universe is packed with fascinating touches.

In this future, connectivity has completely replaced privacy, as each person's every movement is captured on the Ether, a world wide web that everyone can directly access using their mind. But someone is committing murder while hacking into the victim's point of view, a violation that maintains the killer's anonymity. Detective Sal (Owen) suspects a rogue, unregistered woman (Seyfried) who seems to have edited his own personal record. So his boss Charlie (Feore) lets Sal go undercover to catch her with the help of two hacking experts (O'Brien and Pingue) who work for the cops.

The film looks seriously cool, with white graphics sometimes filling the screen to depict the Ether's interconnectivity. In this future, there's no need to carry cash, phones or keys, and cityscapes are bereft of signs and advertising, which are customised for each person. This adds an eerie blandness to the greyed-out settings, isolating the characters in their thoughts. Apparently, they can't watch mindless TV shows in their minds' eye as escapism. Instead, when not working they sit around staring into their mixed drinks.

Owen brings underlying pathos to this detective who has lost a young son (Tavares) and is struggling to maintain contact with his ex (Walger). As the case twists, it seems to drain away whatever life was left in him. So his scenes with the wonderfully spiky Seyfried bristle with promise, if not of romance then at least of a distraction. She may be a serial killer, but she's hot and smart. The supporting characters remain on the sidelines where they belong, offering glimpses into Sal's fragile support network.

All of this is promising, but Niccol never generates much momentum in the plot. Despite the sharply inventive setting, the story is pretty basic. Aside from the general look at a society that has willingly given up all right to privacy, there aren't any resonant themes. And the narrative doesn't have the nerve to go anywhere terribly shocking. Instead, it's unnecessarily brutal and so misogynistic that viewers should be troubled watching it. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 30.Apr.18

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