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Movie Review: 'Disconnect'

By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — No reason to dis Disconnect. This movie speaks to us.

Online identity, social media, Internet porn, and smartphones: all enter in and are addressed in this pointed, topical, and engrossing multi-strand drama that tries to take the current temperature of the Internet era as it explores the ways in which modern technology shapes and affects our relationships.

Disconnect is a loop of three interconnected stories, with the common denominator being the Internet.

Jason Bateman plays a lawyer and distracted father who seems to spend his life on his cell phone.  He's married to Lydia (Hope Davis), and their lonely teenage son Ben (Jonah Bobo) has been cyberbullied and humiliated on Facebook by two boys at middle school.  One of those boys (Colin Ford) is the son of an Internet-crime investigator (Frank Grillo).

(3 stars out of 4)

Paula Patton plays a young mother more or less estranged from her ex-military husband (Alexander Skarsgard) following the death of their infant son.  They've each gone online in different ways for company and solace, but their marriage is crumbling.

And suddenly they're virtually bankrupted in a credit-card fraud by an identity thief who may have gotten their private information through an Internet connection.

And Nina (Andrea Riseborough) is a broadcast reporter hoping to expose an underage porn syndicate in which she discovers twentysomething Kyle (Max Thieriot) working for an adults-only site in a sexual chat room, and the FBI comes calling about her journalistic sources.

These characters are connected –- or soon will be -– in ways that director Henry Alex Rubin patiently and effectively holds off in revealing until all the overlapping subplots are in motion.  This way, his thoroughly absorbing drama builds in intensity and impact all the way through to the emotionally powerful climax.

Rubin, a documentarian (the Oscar-nominated Murderball) making his first narrative feature and working from a script by Andrew Stern, intercuts the stories and poses provocative and timely questions without quite articulating them:

Is the data overload that results from all our instant communication actually resulting in us losing touch with each other?  Are these high-tech devices designed to help us communicate actually having the opposite effect?  Does all this additional information really translate into heightened communication?

Are we, in other words, really connecting in our technology-driven modern world?

The film's title provides its unequivocal answer.

Bateman, as the first among equals, is fine as the anguished, desperate, proactive dad, but all of Rubin's well cast ensemble help him bring his contemporary tapestry to life.

So we'll surf the web in search of 3 stars out of 4 for this riveting and suspenseful cyberdrama and cautionary tale about our wired society.  In vivid contrast to the film's thesis, Disconnect should connect with modern audiences.

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