You need to watch the most chilling sci-fi thriller on Netflix ASAP
“We close our eyes to pray, cry, kiss, dream... or break the law.”
“Technology is taking over our lives.” It’s a familiar complaint typically heard from nostalgic Baby Boomers, out-of-touch columnists, and reactionary Luddites. But it’s also the premise of many gripping sci-fi tales.
Whether it’s the hoverchairs and screens of Wall-E or the sentient A.I. companions in Her, exploring technology’s relationship with our personal routines is always interesting. In this 2018 Netflix original film, the murder mystery noir genre is blended with a high-tech twist that’s a must-see for fans of Black Mirror.
Anon is a 2018 sci-fi mystery thriller written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the writer of The Truman Show. Much like that story, Anon follows a world where everyone’s memories are recorded, able to be tracked, observed, and exported. Everyone’s the subject of their own personal Truman Show. Privacy is totally nonexistent, which should make solving crime easy, right? Well, kind of.
Anon stars Clive Owen as Detective Sal Frieland, who can solve crimes by accessing people’s memories. He’s faced with an impossible case: a serial killer who implants their point of view into their victims, making it impossible to identify them.
What follows is a chilling noir thriller following Sal as he goes deep undercover to track a “fixer,” someone who edits these memory records to get rid of incriminating evidence. This fixer, only referred to as “The Girl,” doesn’t appear in facial recognition interfaces like everyone else. She’s a total mystery, which makes her even more intriguing to Sal.
If the premise of Anon sounds familiar, it’s one that’s used often in science fiction, most recently in the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You,” which also depicted a world where memories are recorded and shareable. Black Mirror even used this technology to solve a crime in Black Mirror’s Season 4 episode “Crocodile.”
But unlike both of these episodes, Anon is clearly influenced by video games. When the action is shown through Sal’s point of view, he holds his gun almost exactly like a first-person shooter game. This, combined with aspect ratio changes, stylizes the film in a way that’s almost too subtle to notice.
Anon, stripped of its technological spin, would be a thrilling mystery story all on its own. Still, the concept of hackers gaining access to people’s perceptions is the kind of psychological body horror that takes any story from good to great.
Mystery movies make you suspect everything unsaid or unseen. But Anon makes you — and its protagonist Sal — question everything right in front of you. And that’s the scariest thing possible.
Anon is now streaming on Netflix.