Blu-ray Review: Disconnect

Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by Henry Alex Rubin
Starring Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgard, Frank Grillo, Michael Nyqvist, Paula Patton, Jonah Bobo, Andrea Riseborough and Max Thieriot
Theatrical Release Date: April 12, 2013
Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: September 17, 2013

First time director, Henry Alex Rubin, masters one of the most formidable difficulties in cinema with the greatest of ease and subtlety. He is able to take multiple narratives and seamlessly connect them in plausible ways in Disconnect. This weaving of narratives can be cumbersome and tackily melodramatic. Such was the case in 2005 when Crash made this storytelling popular, and a year later Babel grandly exploited the ploy to achieve artistic splendor. Each of these films was successful in their own right (Crash winning Best Picture at the Oscars and Babel receiving much critical acclaim).

After those two aforementioned films it seemed that the interlocking narrative was bound for obsolescence, following many botched attempts to replicate the magic that directors Paul Haggis and Alfonso Cuaron captured. But Mr. Rubin, working with an impeccable script crafted by Andrew Stern, resuscitates this form of narrative, attaching to it a social and domestic relevance that will undoubtedly leave viewers reeling after realizing there is a latent infection not only constantly threatening our society today but also our personal lives.

Disconnected is a film that spotlights the perils of the digital age, the ramifications of a single text or message and the misconstrued feelings digital interaction misinterprets. Individuals are always recycling through the ways to connect with some person or thing. Companionship is vital. With social media being as widespread as it is today, it totally understands our yearning to be accepted – to be “friended.” Cyberspace harbors countless opportunities to alleviate our stresses and aid our alienation. It is also a treacherous landscape ripe for identity theft.

By acknowledging these pitfalls, the film gives off the vibe of being unspeakably depressed by the recollections of our society being confined to our technological devices that are meant to make our lives easier. Such a confinement (with the world being perpetually at our fingertips at every second of our life) is such a paradox that it forces the film to have grave ambivalence toward the prevalence of technology. Mr. Rubin never overtly preaches this despairing message in his film, but rather he considers it and meditates on it subliminally in the four interweaving narratives in Disconnect.

Each narrative is unquestioningly engaging, inextricably binding us to every character in the film to the point where we care immensely what the characters’ next move will be. It is a marvel to behold the narratives converging with one another, creating a monumental explosion of emotions. Each narrative contains lonely souls desperate for a connection. All of them are willing to put their lives at risk just to be accepted or to be idolized by their peers, while some put their lives at risk just to find an answer for the cause of their lives imploding.

We first get introduced to Kyle (Max Thieriot), an aimless 18-year-old inhabiting a dissolute life. He seems to be living with other aimless youths in a huge house so poorly lit that one can scarcely see a few feet ahead. It is here where Internet sex shows are streamed to a lustful, lonely audience. Kyle encounters a customer who is interested not in sex but in Kyle’s well-being. Her name is Nina (Andrea Riseborough), and she’s a television reporter anxious to do a story about Kyle and other teenage exhibitionists.

Once she treads too close and begins to endanger Kyle’s life, Nina is contacted by FBI officials, this prompting the television station’s lawyer, Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman), to get involved.

He is currently experiencing domestic issues. The veneer of this ideal family quickly dissipates as Rich’s 15-year-old son Ben (Jonah Bobo), an aspiring musician, meets difficulties everyday in school. He is a victim of bullying and is incapable of explaining this pain to his parents. The cruelness he experiences heightens when two of his classmates play a prank on him that goes beyond the intolerable.

One of Ben’s bullies’ fathers, Mike (Frank Grillo), is a retired cop trying to cope with the loss of his wife. He is now a private investigator. One day, he gets a call from an emotionally disconnected couple (Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton) who have been the victims of an identity thief. Long for Mike to immediately crack down on the victim, the couple threatens to take the case into their own hands.

All of these situations eventually adjoin in a way that doesn’t seem obligatory. The main idea in each situation is that technology can be detrimental to our society and personal lives. Our ceaseless adherence to technology being the quintessential way of communicating with each other proves to be the impetuous force that threatens these individuals’ lives, and in some cases revives them.

Blu-ray Video Quality: From the film’s opening scene, we can tell that we are going to be getting dimly lit film, as well as a few grainy scenes. These scenes prove to be the most impressive. Even though Disconnect was shot digitally, one could scarcely tell since this Blu-ray feature lacks the clarity of other Blu-ray discs. When scenes aren’t specifically grainy or dimly lit, they don’t possess the pristine visuals we have come to expect from these discs.

Special Features: Audio Commentary with Director Henry Alex Rubin

Recording Session of “On the Nature of Daylight” for Disconnect (HD; 4 mins)

Making the Connections: Behind the Scenes of Disconnect (HD; 27 mins)

Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Film: ***** out of *****
HD Quality: ***1/2 out of *****
Special Features: *** out of *****

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