Review: Disconnect – Tracks technological train-wrecks
Among my biggest movie-pet-peeves are elongated scenes with actors interfacing with computers, or any technology for that matter (save a Delorean with a flux-capacitor or some other such technological marvel.) These techno-sequences are usually about as entertaining as watching grass grow and the exaggerated clacking sounds, made while people are fake-typing, are just plain annoying (even more so than in real-life.) So I was surprised that the new film Disconnect, which is about people communicating through modern technology while losing their connection with the real people around them, was so insightful and entertaining.
Disconnect has a narrative and tone similar to films like Traffic or Crash (also see Short Cuts, Grand Canyon and Babel), where multiple stories are told simultaneously and the threads are exposed at the end in a climatic revelation of their interconnectivity. Been there, done that – but this time the characters’ associations are all tied together with technology.
The film follows the crossed technological paths of several people, including Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough), an ambitious reporter who sees a great story in the online porn-chat-room life of Kyle (Max Thieriot); Rich (Jason Bateman) & Lydia Boyd (Hope Davis), whose son, Ben (Jonah Bobo), becomes the tragic victim of an online prank played by juvenile delinquents Frye (Aviad Bernstein) and Jason (Colin Ford); and Jason’s father, Mike (Frank Grillo), a retired detective who specializes in computer crimes and is helping out Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) and Cindy Hull (Paula Patton), who are the victims of online identity theft. Whew! Still with me?
With computers, smart phones, online chat rooms and text messaging, the characters all interact with each other electronically more than they do with the flesh & blood people in their own presence, and all the storylines follow an Internet path towards an inevitable technological train-wreck that you can’t look away from. The intensity builds to a climax that then lingers in slow-motion and is satisfyingly unpredictable.
The story vignette that has the nerdy and shy Ben Boyd falling victim to the schoolboy pranks of Jason & Frye was particularly gut-wrenching and pointed out how easily our current technology can be used to completely destroy a life. This film astutely illustrates how lies and other ugliness can be so easily and quickly disseminated into our collective wired consciousness and how once the damage is done it is nearly impossible for it to be repaired.
The film visually communicates the act of writing on a computer or smart phone in unique ways that make that process a little more tolerable than in most films, so I’m going to give it a reluctant pass regarding the pet-peeve I mentioned earlier; but that doesn’t mean the movie is without problems. There are a few scenes in this movie that literally felt “disconnected” from the rest of the film and a couple of connecting lines that are not necessarily drawn in a logical manner.
Documentary filmmaker Henry Alex Rubin directs this dramatic film, which was written by newcomer Andrew Stern, and despite a couple of plotting mishaps and the inherent coldness that comes with a movie that revolves around the use of modern technology, Disconnect is a thoughtful look at the current state of human communication, or the lack thereof. It’s worth checking out – if you can pull yourself away from your smartphone. Grade: 7/10
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