In retrospect, seeing the trailer for Crash ahead of the Disconnect Blu-ray was something that may have clued me in to what the latter was going to be about. And in what could serve as a fitting bookend to the former, the latter was an intriguing prospect, with several interwoven storylines and familiar faces in them to help move things along. While nobody will confuse the two in terms of the praise each film received, Disconnect is not a shabby film in the least.
The film is written by Andrew Stern (Return to Me) and directed by Henry Alex Rubin (Murderball). The storylines include Derek (Alexander Skarsgard, Priest) and Cindy (Paula Patton, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol), an unhappy couple who have found themselves as the latest victims of identity theft. The investigator of their case is a single dad, and his son (along with his best friend) cyber bully a kid in their school, using a fake female profile created on Facebook. The victim unfortunately reacts as a cyber bully victim reacts these days, leaving his parents Rich (Jason Bateman, Identity Thief) and Lydia (Hope Davis, Real Steel) coping with this sudden tragedy. Rich works as legal counsel to a news station, where one of its reporters (Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion) has done a report on underage chat room models that could leave her in danger of being jailed and/or fired, despite her feelings of sympathy for the model.
It is easy to see that with Disconnect the premise is that everyone around each other, even in the same room, may have put up digital walls around themselves with various social medium. And perhaps these walls are impacting personal relationships adversely and with devastating effect. While there are moments that hammer this message home without a lot of nuance, generally Disconnect gets out of the way and lets the cast perform, with the results being pleasant. Of note, Bateman's dramatic turn is good, and Patton's pain both in her past (which we learn about gradually through the film) and her dissatisfaction with her husband is almost a vision, her expressions are fascinating to watch.
Moreover, the film's first and second acts are absolute compelling viewing. I was transfixed to the film as the first hour and change unfurled in front of me, thinking that it was Soderbergh/P.T. Anderson/Altman-esque in the multiple storylines drifting in and out of one another, each with their own interesting supporting actors. As Rich and Lydia's son, Jonah Bobo (Crazy, Stupid Love) plays the role adeptly, keeping to himself, waiting for the right moment to express himself, which is exploited for childish reasons. And Max Thieriot (Chloe) is good as Kyle, the model that Riseborough's character Nina strikes a friendship with and eventually wants to take care of, despite his reticence.
Ultimately the story begins to crumble in the stretch run. And in each of the storyline's key moments, the story goes from telling things in documentary style to almost inexplicably going to super slow motion on the crystallizing moment. Not only does it come off as pretentious, but in the ten to fifteen minutes leading up to it, the speeding up of the storytelling easily forces the viewer to start making choices as to which arc they like the most. In Disconnect I liked each of them in various ways, and to wrap each up the way they did, with an underlying message of…who the heck knows what, felt like the first hour was thrown away for nothing.
If there is an epitaph for Disconnect, it may very well be that it had the purest of intentions and told a very good story initially, but resolving said story the way they did was amateurish and not worthy of what led up to it. Disconnect serves not only as the film's title and what the filmmakers thing is going on with America, but also is the way I felt after watching this feature.
The film gets an AVC-encoded transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen from Lionsgate, which was unsurprising considering how new the film is. I was surprised at how well the image detail was in the foreground (Skarsgard is all the more handsome when he's on a Blu-ray disc on a 50 inch plasma set). Color and flesh tone replication was accurate and without concern. Much of the film occurs in darker moments, and the black levels tend to vary on consistency. But overall it was a fairly paint by numbers transfer for the film onto Blu-ray.
DTS HD-MA 5.1 surround for the film, also. The dialogue tends to fluctuate a little in the third act, but past this minor gripe, it was well-balanced throughout. The film does not get too much to do from the film, but the soundtrack does get some help on the low end from the subwoofer, and directional effects are even present from time to time to go along with moments of panning. It is easy to perhaps be disappointed with what the film sounds like, but the disc does not get much to work with. What it does it does in a perfectly acceptable manner.
Rubin contributes a solo commentary for the film that is underwhelming. When he is not spending lots of time watching the film, he is talking about what occurs on screen. Heck, I think he even missed one of his Murderball stars in a cameo for this. If he does more feature commentaries I would hope he improves on this. Next up is "Making the Connection" (27:18), a making of look at the film. It covers Stern's inspiration for writing the film, and producer William Horberg recounts how he came to the script and putting the pieces together for it. Rubin discusses his thoughts on the story and how his approach to directing the film was, and the cast discuss their thoughts on the film and on how Rubin handled the set. They also recount what they think the film means for them as well, and the piece is not bad. There is footage from a recording session for scoring the film (4:16) which shows how some of the music was put together, and the film's trailer (2:31) closes things out, along with a code for a streaming copy of the movie on UltraViolet of course.
Disconnect covers a topic of the day and has no real answers to speak of, but this is a solid feature entry by Rubin, helped along by solid performances from many of his stars. Technically, it is not bad and was a minor surprise in the bonus department. The legacy of Disconnect may ultimately lie in an area that others may not consider; one where people see the film as a jumping off point to reconciling personal relationships lost to technology. But as a film, it is worth your time to see.