Saturday movie review: 'Disconnect'

My viewing of the film DISCONNECT — which features an ensemble cast headed up by Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard — began with an "uh oh" spoken aloud and ended with an internal "uh oh" I've carried with me since watching the movie more than a week ago.

My first came within the first scene or two, when a video chat session features a young man in a lewd position (in his briefs, not fully nude) encouraging a woman on the other end of the session to request various sex acts from him, acts for which she'd pay to see. I said to my husband, "Uh oh... what have we gotten into?" and I suggested we may want to turn off the DVD and watch something else.

I'm so glad we didn't! It soon became clear that the woman accessing the website was merely a reporter trying to get a story about under-age kids roped into pornography rings. It also quickly became clear DISCONNECT had a powerful message. And powerful acting. And a powerful storyline that underscores the dire consequences of the online and similarly techy connections our society embraces and clings to, how such has the ability (probability?) to disconnect us from friends and family, remove us from what's right and important more so than it connects.

The superb ensemble cast and the multiple story lines that, though seemingly separate at first, will undoubtedly eventually intersect in disastrous ways makes this film reminiscent of 2004's Oscar-winning CRASH. It also makes DISCONNECT difficult to explain. The engaging drama lays bare the ugliness of cyber bulling, identity theft, secrets couples keep from one another, dysfunctional relationships between fathers and sons, the manic methods of the media, and so much more.

DISCONNECT leaves me with an overwhelming uh-oh feeling of what in the world have we gotten ourselves into? that I find hard to shake. Especially because I spend a large portion of my days online and using techy toys, thanks to my writing and blogging work. Which is what much of our society does. The young and the old and everyone in between, whether it's part of one's job or not. We delight in the ability to connect with one another instantaneously, often anonymously. And we often don't pay enough attention to how all that tech time takes away from our real time, our real important time.

Jason Bateman proved a fantastic dramatic actor, and every other member of the cast was equally spectacular, with not a single false or forced note from anyone, not even the youngsters who at many times carry the film.

Director Henry-Alex Rubin, award-winning documentary filmmaker of MURDERBALL (if you've not seen it, you must), crafted DISCONNECT — his first dramatic fiction film — into an intense, suspenseful, engaging and heartfelt film, based on a screenplay by Andrew Stern. Rubin's unique style rooted in documentary filmmaking resulted in not only powerful scenes from beginning to end, but instilled the film with an overall sense of hope, dignity, and goodness despite the dark subject.  

Equally superb is the haunting score by Max Richter, which perfectly matched the mood throughout DISCONNECT.

DISCONNECT (rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language, violence and drug use — some involving teens) was released theatrically in 2012 and is available on DVD. For more information, visit the movie's official website.