A gripping cautionary film, brimming with human emotion and shot with visceral energy.
Directed by Henry Alex Rubin
As far as films that try to mirror our society goes, Disconnect sure does run the gamut, attempting to cover 3 loosely connected stories pertaining cyber theft, bullying and sex trafficking. Of course, this scattershot approach isn’t new, and whether you hated the blunt message of Crash (2004), or loved the epic and intimate scale of Magnolia (1999), you should not give this film a miss.
Disconnect lies somewhere in between Crash and Magnolia. Boasting a less ambitious scale, the focus is squarely on its troubled denizens as they attempt to navigate the murky waters of the 21st century. And the deck of troubled characters is stacked high here.
You have the distraught couple, Cindy and Derek who are currently spiraling from the loss of their son. Matters are made worse as their identity is stolen, presumably when Cindy uses a support group online.
Then you have the bullies, Jason and Frye. A couple of skateboard punks who pose as a fictional girl online to manipulate their classmate Ben. Incidentally the father of Jason is the ex-cop assigned to Cindy’s identity theft case.
Finally you have the sex trafficking story following Nina, a reporter who dives headfirst into exposing a sex ring exploiting young teenage boys and girls, while putting herself at risk. Again, the other story bleeds over as Ben’s father, a hotshot lawyer gets roped into the proceedings while trying to understand his increasingly distant son.
Sounds convoluted doesn’t it?
Thankfully, the film is anything but. Impressively nearly every character gets their moment to shine, and director Henry Alex Rubin does a fantastic job at managing the large cast and story lines as they interweave and run along side each other. There’s not a moment to waste either since things quickly go very wrong for our characters, resulting in some of the most gut wrenching ensemble acting i have seen in a while.
Jason Bateman sheds his comedic skin and is utterly convincing as the father desperately looking for answers. Colin Ford as Jason is excellent in his multilayered portrayal of the bully looking for connection, and Andrea Riseborough is fascinating to watch as the cunning reporter who realizes she may be crossing ethical boundaries. I could go on and on but the cast is uniformly excellent, revealing layers beneath the caricatures of their characters.
Thankfully, the film never succumbs to being overtly preachy. While it does paint an unsettling portrait of life in the technological overload age, it never specifically assigns blame to anyone, allowing us to decide for ourselves who is to blame, or if there even is someone at fault.
Yes, Disconnect is undoubtedly dark in places and its scattershot style may not be for everyone, but it is a passionately wrought work filled with multifaceted characters and a timely message that makes for essential viewing.