Jason Bateman-325
Photo by Phil Bray - Courtesy of LD Entertainment

At a time when so many movies offer nothing but escape, it’s refreshing to encounter one that has something to say about modern society, and a great cast to bring it to life. Written by Andrew Stern and directed by documentary filmmaker Henry Alex Rubin (Murderball), Disconnect takes a sobering look at the wide-ranging impact that social media and interconnectivity is having on our everyday lives. That it manages to do so without ever becoming preachy is no small achievement.

In one story thread, Jason Bateman and Hope Davis’s teenage son, a loner who seeks refuge in his bedroom composing music, falls victim to a cruel prank. Two fellow students are sending him provocative texts using a made-up girl’s name (with a stolen picture), in order to lure him on and enjoy watching his discomfort.

Meanwhile, Alexander Skarsgård and Paula Patton discover that his identity—and their bank account—have been purloined by a clever internet thief. The cops are swamped and can’t help on a timely basis, so they hire a private investigator, played by Frank Grillo, who used to work for the police on this very beat. He opens their eyes to the perils of exposure on the internet.

Andrea Riseborough-325
Photo by Phil Bray - Courtesy of LD Entertainment

Then there’s Max Thieriot, who performs sexual acts online for a variety of customers, and attracts the attention of an ambitious TV reporter, played by Andrea Riseborough. When she pitches an investigative story and uses him as her source, she (like everyone else in the film) doesn’t think about the potential consequences.

Disconnect is tough to watch at times because it cuts so close to the bone. That’s also why it’s so effective. I can’t imagine any audience member who won’t relate to at least one of the characters or the dilemma they face. The cast is excellent, from top to bottom. Riseborough is a rising star from England who will soon be seen opposite Tom Cruise in Oblivion; she’s not only completely credible here but her American accent and demeanor are flawless. It’s especially rewarding to see Bateman in a challenging dramatic role that shows just what he’s capable of.

You can view Disconnect as a cautionary tale or simply become engaged with it as a superior piece of storytelling. Either way, it’s well worth seeing.