Murderball director Henry Alex Rubin turns his hand to fiction in this multi-stranded drama examining different forms of cyber-crime and our interconnectedness through technology. Similar in tone to something like Paul Haggis’ divisive Oscar winner, Crash, the film follows various characters, whose stories intersect in both meaningful and inconsequential ways.
Andrea Riseborough plays an ambitious reporter looking into webcam prostitution, who grows a little too attached to her informant, an underage gigolo (Max Thieriot). Their relationship forces her employer to take legal action, represented by high flying lawyer, Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman). Meanwhile, his son, Ben becomes the victim of cyber-bullying at school, and tries to kill himself. Looking for answers, Rich inadvertently begins chatting with Ben’s tormentor online, who, in turn, is feeling distanced from his own father, Mike. Mike is a private cyber crimes investigator hired by a young grieving couple when their identities are stolen by an online fraudster.
The film does a great job of outlining a number of ways in which our increasingly online habits make us vulnerable to victimisation and crime, and then developing them into an engaging narrative that interweaves a series of well drawn characters. The performances are uniformly excellent, while the stories are by turn horrifying, infuriating and yet all-too-believable. In its final act, however, Disconnect loses its nerve and allows each situation to dissipate just as it was building to a genuinely engaging climax. Ultimately the film tries too hard to right these wrongs, rather than see them play out the way they do all too regularly in real life, and it leaves the audience feeling somewhat patronised and let down by the outcome.