Thursday, May 17, 2018


2018, Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, In Time) -- Netflix

Niccol's last foray into futuristic social commentary, In Time, was marred by a dominance of pretty people and a lack of focus on the world's futuristic elements. But in his latest, a comment on the lack of privacy in the digital world, you cannot escape the futuristic. It's everywhere -- in much the way we think our own world is, dominated by social media and digital systems stealing away our privacy, Anon's world is saturated by sub-cutaneous information overload. In our real world, despite the hype, it's still pretty easy to disconnect from personal data stealing online culture -- just don't contribute and you won't be out there. But imagine a world where its in your head from birth, where the government can see through your eyes, record all that information and access it at any time --- there is literally no privacy.

Clive Owen is Sal, a cop who investigates serious crimes. His job's rather easy, he can just review the criminal activities through the perp's own eyes (and recent past) to glean all the details he wants. It doesn't stop people from trying; it's just easy to solve. Sal is kind of bored, when a mystery comes along. Someone is murdering those who recently had their illicit behaviours removed from the record.

Of course you subvert can the system. Sleep with a hooker and don't want your wife to find out? Hire a hacker to remove the event from your own record (and the copy with the govt), from the hooker's record, from every record of everyone involved. Fill in the time with the memory version of a looping vid (or static print out placed in front of a security cam) and all the details are gone. A hacker is hacking the hacks and killing to remove all evidence.

Sal's a good cop and quickly puts together some details, generates a sting op to find this skilled hacker, and it all goes wrong, because they always do. Amanda Seyfried returns (in a Niccol movie) as the hacker in question, a young women entirely removed from the system and offering the same to others. But why is she killing her clients? That is the question.

This is brutalism meets film noir meets techo overlay. The entire concrete world (shot in Toronto and NYC) is overlayed, an augmented reality, with advertising and information. As we generally see through a cop's eyes, I am not sure everyone has the access Sal does, but he gets EVERYTHING. He knows the details of everyone and everything he sees, with text and video for everything in his field of view. Its a fascinating world, where he can wave things off but never really does, where everyone has the look of a person distracted by their phone, in the extreme --- eyes always lost in a distance look at something not really there.

You know my love for interfaces, and while much of this is too simplified (think flying boxes as representations of all data) it is well populated, focusing on the utter glut of available info. And these smoking, grim talking people, so devoid of emotional inflection walking around a stone city a little too clean, a little too tidy. It made me think the view may be cleaned up, editing out refuse and clutter. The world is as you want, or need, to see it.

The commentary is that even when we have all the private info available, crime won't just go away. Sure, it will be easy to solve said crimes, but people are people. Its supposed to be chilling that the government will have access to everything about us, but that's not really perceived here almost as if Niccol's is OK with this world. Just stay away from illicit behaviour and you can have your life to yourself. I think if they had shown a bit more of how the information can be abused, we could have bought into the scary aspects of this world.

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