Web of deceit

Web of deceit

The perils of the Internet are explored à la Crash

By Tim Pompey 05/09/2013

Directed by Henry Alex Rubin
Starring: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Jonah Bobo
Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, violence and drug use: some involving teens
1 hr. 55 min.

Every so often I like to take a chance on an independent film that simply pops up out of left field. No previews. No buzz. Just a title, a description and a chance that I might discover a little diamond in the rough.

Disconnect is one of those films, a story that relentlessly points out the obsessive addiction we have with our Internet technologies.

Most movies are created to entertain in some form or fashion. Disconnect isn’t that type of film. It’s intended to stick a fork in your eye and make you pay attention. As it plows through several common variations of Internet abuse, it points to a growing threat that flows through our fingertips. A keyboard. A screen. A world of shopping and entertainment. Also a tunnel of danger.

There are many lives in this film that intersect with each other via the Web. Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman) and his wife, Lydia (Hope Davis), are parents to their quiet withdrawn son Ben (Jonah Bobo), who, as a result of a horrible online prank, attempts suicide.

Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough) is a local news reporter who initiates a video chat on a child porn site with young Kyle (Max Theriot). She wants to do a news story about Kyle to further her career. But as she soon learns, Kyle is more than just a story and Nina must decide whether to help him or let him go.

Derek Hull (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife, Cindy (Paula Patton), discover that their bank account has been wiped out by an online scam artist. When they uncover the identity of the thief, Derek and Cindy decide to pursue him and exact revenge. How far will they go to recover their lives?

Jason Dixon (Colin Ford) is the teenage son of a tough ex-cop father, Mike (Frank Grillo). Jason and his friend Frye (Aviad Bernstein) are responsible for the Internet prank on Ben. When Jason meets Ben’s father online, he begins to confront his own role in the tragedy and ask some probing questions about fatherhood.

Director Henry Alex Rubin and writer Andrew Stern are going for a cumulative impact here. Demonstrating how we take modern Internet technologies for granted, they piece together each story quietly, painstakingly, in bedrooms and offices where people hide behind their screens and share detailed and intimate information with strangers.

Using the technology itself as part of the film’s format, they skillfully show how the numbing anesthesia of the Internet can impact human emotion.

But a word is not just a word. A picture is not just a picture. As Rubin and Stern point out, sometimes we wake up too late and recognize that all that screen time adds up to a dramatic loss of intimacy, privacy, income and trust.

The ending, in particular, plays a vivisection of each story in slow motion, à la Crash, and forces the viewer to watch each character’s agony in a way that is piercing and painful.

There are some notable names in this cast and some surprising performances as well, especially from the normally comedic Bateman, who expresses his gut-wrenching loss with barely the twitch of a facial muscle, and teen actors Bobo, Ford and Theriot who ably display the carelessness and agony of modern manhood.

I’m guessing that this film will come and go in theaters. I review it in hopes that, if and when it’s released on DVD, you may remember this review and pick it up.

But brace yourself. Disconnect is a sober reminder that every time you turn on that little box and start pecking away, someone is watching and waiting. Make that a million someones. And while we casually browse the Web, a cold universe of technology tracks, tabulates and waits for just the right opportunity to steal our lives.

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