Disconnect – review

November 21, 2013 4:32 pm

Starring: Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Frank Grillo, Andrea Riseborough, Max Thieriot and Alexander Skarsgard.

Duration: 1hr 55 mins
Year: 2012
Cert: R/15
Director: Henry Alex Rubin

disconnect film reviewDisconnect portrays our modern world exactly as it is, technological advancements and all. Whether they have taken over our lives, or made our existence worse is left for you to decide. Techno haters will (and have) praise the film for its perceived attack on today’s wired world and perhaps call for more melodrama than the film duly provides. Fear mongers will cry, finally a film which displays the dark side of social media; although didn’t The Social Network already achieve that accolade along with its Academy Awards? Rather than pursue this narrative though, Rubin’s (Murderball) vision is a more objective, humanistic take on our ever advancing modernisation.

Disconnect is an ensemble drama revolving around three intersecting stories of; cyber-bullying, cyber-sex and cyber-crime. Despite this emphasis on the cyber world, it is very much a drama centred on human relationships and this is where the film’s power lies. At the centre of the three narratives is Ben (Jonah Bobo) a lonely teenage boy who is alienated from his family and peers. Though as Bateman points out this is not a new phenomenon, as he was much the same at his son’s age. His isolation makes him the target of a cyber-prank by two school mates who adopt the identity of a fictitious girl on Facebook in order to engage with him. The most powerful episodes of this storyline occur not because of the Catfish like plot, but during the heartfelt interactions between two alienated teenagers connecting through social media. When the inevitable tragedy of teenage bullying strikes, it is Ben’s solace in the internet that eventually allows his father to reconnect with the estranged son.

536113_Disconnect A1+ Poster.inddAlexander Skarsgard is captivating as a former marine whose wife deals with the loss of their child through support groups on internet chat rooms, as the couple fail to confront their personal issues. This branch seems to take a long and winding road to demonstrate a relatively simple point. Indeed if all the segments were as stretched and lucid as this it would have been a much lesser film. Despite this it highlights how technology in Disconnect is not the problem and nor is it the solution, instead it is an integral part of modern life which permeates most aspects of these characters’ existence. The occurrences in this film; bullying, theft and exploitation, are not new or alien and they may always have a presence in society (whilst investigating the cyber theft of their identity, the couple could have easily stolen another’s whilst breaking into his house and stealing cardboard boxes of sensitive paper information). However they do not occur as a result of modernising or changing technologies, they occur because of the people carrying them out, plugged in or not. This is also apparent in the third connecting narrative which sees an ambitious journalist (Andrea Riseborough) attempting to make a name for herself by investigating an internet sex ring. This storyline again suffers as a result of its own ambitions as at times it seems to focus more on journalistic integrity than fully exploring the issues such as exploitation that it introduces or examining the sex industry and its implications in much depth. However, the performances from Andrea Riseborough and her subject Max Thieriot ensure this storyline remains enjoyable to follow and again highlights the importance of the characters’ relationships at the centre of this thriller.

It is a strong directorial debut from Henry Alex Rubin, in which he receives strong all round performances from his cast, most notably from Jason Bateman in an increasingly rare dramatic role. Disconnect occasionally becomes predictable and heads down the path we expect too often. However when it is at its best, the strength of the acting, direction and cinematography overcome the scripts faltering ambitions, ensuring it achieves its purpose of being a fierce, unsettling narrative of modernity which grows in tension to a thrilling climax. The film is commendable in examining various realities in our modern society and taking an objective view which shows multiple aspects of the modernising debate. Its complexity and depth surpasses many people’s expectations arising through their mere interpretation of the title. Do not accept the mixed reviews, this is no I Robot.

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