Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disconnect (2013)

Every year I make a resolution to 'disconnect', but it never lasts more than a few days.  It's not that I have any kind of internet addiction, it's just easier to ping someone on Facebook than it is to pick up a phone, even if it's the same phone I'm using to look at Facebook.  Kind of sad, really...

Disconnect follows a familiar format where you have several stories that eventually intertwine as they develop.  There are three main stories that all center around some kind of technology.  First, we have a reporter (Andrea Riseborough) that's investigating underage teens being used in online, sex chat rooms.  She interviews one boy (Max Thieriot) and hopes her report will be her big break as a reporter.

Then, we have a couple (Alexander Skarsgård and Paula Patton) that's having marital issues after the death of their child.  They've grown apart and she spends her time reaching out to people in chat rooms as her husband won't talk to her.  While on a business trip, they find out that someone has stolen their identity and cleaned out their bank account.  As the police are moving too slow, they hire a private investigator (Frank Grillo) to track down the man that stole from them.

Finally, a boy (Jonah Bobo) is cyberbullied by two classmates (Colin Ford and Aviad Bernstein) by creating a fake Facebook profile and tricking him into an extremely embarrassing situation.  Things spiral out of control and his father (Jason Bateman) is left trying to find out what happened.

Sometimes these types of films suffer from having too many characters, or not giving them enough depth, but one of my favorite things about Disconnect is that you learn a great deal about everyone without tons of exposition or explicitly being told.  You aren't spoonfed info and director Henry Alex Rubin trusts the audience to be smart enough to figure this stuff on their own.  I found myself caring about each story, so there was no drop off or drastic shift in tone when going back and forth.  A lot of times when watching movies that follow this format, I find that there's usually one story or set of characters that's not as interesting or that I don't care about.  That's not the case here and I credit writer Andrew Stern as well as Rubin for creating a story with relatable characters and situations.  I also credit them for staying away from too much melodrama while gradually building tension as things escalate.

My only real complaint about the story, is that I thought some of the details regarding the identity theft thread felt a little forced to me.  I'm primarily basing this on my own personal experiences with identity theft, and I understand that not every situation is going to be the same, but my experiences have been much different than what they went through in Disconnect.  It's a minor complaint though.  It didn't ruin the film for me or anything like that.

It's interesting that the title is called Disconnect, when that seems to be the message or goal for the audience, rather than what actually happens in the film.  I see the phrase "cautionary tale" being thrown about a lot in discussion of this film, but I didn't really feel that it was preachy enough to be a cautionary tale as much as it was a character drama.  After watching Disconnect though, I did come away from it feeling like I need revisit my resolution to stop spending so much time on Facebook or Twitter and work on actual in-person interaction.  I think the world would be better off if we all worked on that a bit.

While there aren't a lot of huge names in the cast, there really isn't a weak performance in the group.  All of the characters (even the bullies) manage to come off as sympathetic.  I give Jason Bateman crap for playing the same role over and over, but Disconnect is a movie finally that allows him to play a different type of role and show a side of him we don't normally see.  It really is well-acted across the board.  Even scenes where characters aren't even verbally communicating, but communicating through online chat, you get some kind of emotional depth from them.

Disconnect is easily in my top five of the best films I've seen so far in 2013.  It's a wonderfully acted dramatic thriller, that'll make you think a little about how we use technology in today's world.  It might actually get you to disconnect a little yourself.  Don't miss this one.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

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