Rating: 3.5 out of 5
If you liked Oscar-winning ‘Crash’ (2004), the vignette-heavy movie where the lives of the main characters cross in unexpected ways, you may find the sequence in ‘Disconnect’ quite familiar.
Director Henry Alex Rubin (‘Murderball’) dwells on the dark side of the internet with three loosely connected stories: an ambitious journalist is entangled with a web-based sex worker; two mischievous teenage boys bait a lonely classmate with a fake Facebook account, and an estranged couple fall prey to identity theft.
It is as if they and their predators are reflections of real-life people you know, the ones you think you won’t meet or don’t want to meet in your online interactions and transactions.
Jason Bateman, in a change from comedic roles, gives a stellar performance as a workaholic father who is stuck to his mobile phone, until his son becomes the victim of an elaborate prank.
Nina Riseborough plays the TV news reporter who gets into a deeper and more complicated relationship with her informant than she intended. Even the young actors who portray the bully and the victim convincingly express the profound loneliness that eventually leads to acts of desperation.
‘Disconnect’, as its almost imperative title suggests, tells a cautionary tale about having to deal with real-life problems as a result of some online naivete. The digital universe is crawling with monsters, malware and conmen who would think nothing of emptying our bank accounts, and cyber-bullies who only wish to do harm in the name of fun.
The message is that people are not what they seem on the internet, and revealing too much information on cyberspace may have potentially disastrous outcomes.
Yet, to say that the film blames technology for the predicaments of the hapless online users is completely missing the point.
‘Disconnect’ is less a public service announcement than it is about putting a face to online interactions. It strikes a key because it is familiar, and it is arresting precisely because you can relate to the consequences of trusting someone more than you should.
There is always a disconnect between our online personae and our real selves. And perhaps, it is always good to have such reminders that we should disconnect from the virtual world and enjoy each other’s physical company more.