We practically live in the Internet. The digital age has given us social networks, where you are just minutes away from connecting to someone, anywhere in this world. We log on and shop through the internet. Basically, our profiles are floating out there, assessed by some stranger to steal our identity. Bullying has taken different forms. We can destroy someone's life, just by clicking "send" and it is shocking to see that runaway teens are being recruited for interactive porn sessions. Internet is definitely not the worst technology, mankind has conceived, but Henry Alex Rubin's "Disconnect" (2012) gives us an unsettling assessment (shows us the darker side) on this contemporary technology.
Like the Oscar winning movie "Crash" (2004), Disconnect gives us a rich and melodramatic three tales, in which the characters are only connected by ideas and locations. Nina (Andrea Riseborough) is a fervent Television reporter, looking for a story that might bring her fortune and fame. She researches interactive pornography sites and comes across a handsome exhibitionist, Kyle (Max Thieriot). She wants to do an interview with Kyle (with his face in shadow and his voice altered) and also makes him believe that, she cares about his future.
Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman) is a preoccupied legal counselor. His son, Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo) is a loner. He lives in his dream world filled with music. He becomes the victim of a prank pulled by his fellow classmates: Frye (Aviad Bernstein) and Jason (Colin Ford). They create a phony id named "Jessica" and claim to love Ben's music. The boys send a picture of a nude girl and challenge him to do the same. To the bullies' surprise, Ben sends the picture and they respond to that by mailing it to everyone at school.
Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) and Cindy Hull (Paula Patton) are married couples. Derek was a former marine, now confined to a desk job. Cindy sells her art work in the internet. Their infant son's death paralyzes both with grief. Derek stops talking to her and so Cindy joins in a online support group. In there, she befriends an anonymous man (Michael Nyqvist), who says he is coping with the death of his wife. Very soon, their identities are stolen, resulting in financial wreckage. The couples hire a private detective, Mike Dixon (Frank Grillo) -- Jason's father. After attaining the location of perpetrator, the couples drive out to confront the alleged thief.
The solidest part of the film is the bullying story. This story develops multiple characters and doesn't take the easy approach of demonizing the pranksters. Jason Bateman, known for his comic roles in "Identity Thief", "Horrible Bosses", once again proves that he is adept at dramas. There is subtlety in his performance and as Jason Colin Ford shows us another side of a despicable character. Ben Boyd's sister, Abby discusses the heart-breaking events that have happened to their family, among her friends. Her buddies listen to her with grief. However, one of the girls looks at the mobile screen and filled with joy, says, "Oh, my God! He invited me to Danny's. What should I say?" That scene portrays, how hard-hearten and selfish people have become.
The interactive porn story shows how the reporters are equally exploiting someone's life (for fame) like the cold-blooded pimps (for money). Andrea Riseborough's character is less involving, however, this segment asks thought-provoking questions without being preachy. In the couples' segment, Skarsgard and Paula Patton effectively convey the emotional pain. Their reaction after knowing about the thief's identity seems extreme and gives less impact to the story. That said, one of the moment was so intense and sorrowful: Cindy's explanation to Derek about her Internet history.
Andrew Stern's script often connects characters though some melodramatic coincidences and he brings out the characters' alienation, even in the web world. Director Rubin (previously directed Oscar nominated documentary, "Murder Ball") does an excellent job in stitching the tales and explores the chat conversations with voice-less words. The use of slow-motion at a critical moment might seem distracting, but it had some breathtaking camerawork.
"Disconnect" has many stereotypes: Facebook bullies, clueless parents, exploiting reporter, brainless youngsters and solace-seeking wife. But, what pushes the movie beyond these stereotypes and limitations is the all around subtle performance of the actors. Mankind is prone to disaster, whatever the technology is. We need to realize that our mobile phones and iPad's are just devices. It is good to create our own wireless world, but that shouldn't alter our communication with the traditional sense of community.
"Disconnect" is a non-judgmental cautionary tale. It would definitely connect with viewers of digital age.
Disconnect -- IMDb
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, violence and drug use - some involving teens