Friday, June 28, 2013 — I should start at the end. Many films succeed for the first hour and half, only to collapse with a less than satisfying climax. Others meander along and then stun us with an unexpected last chapter that redeems all that has transpired before the last reel.
“Disconnect,” an ensemble story focusing on our electronic communication culture, is a film that captivated me from beginning to end, but ultimately startled me with the truth of the courageous ending. Had the film ended any other way, I believe it would have been much less collectively, and the climax could have been ruined by clichés and sentimentally trite.
“Disconnect” tells several stories about people who depend on cellphones, pads, laptops, chat rooms, social websites, texting, emailing, and various other forms of connection which define much of our time in modern America. Most of us are aware that others also use these tools, the ones we use for work, communication or our own amusement, in more sordid ways. In the midst of all these various practices of sharing information, this film succeeds in drawing the audience into caring, not just for the victims of the story, but also feeling compassion for those who perpetrate much of the sorrow and misery on screen.
“Disconnect” is a film in the same vein as “Traffic” and “Crash.” “Traffic” and “Crash” were both Best Picture Oscar nominees (“Traffic” won Best Director but lost Best Picture; “Crash” won Best Picture but lost Best Director.) As “Traffic” deals with various issues of the current drug culture, and “Crash” offers examples of racism in America, “Disconnect” uses multiple stories to consider the hazards of cyber communications and the effects upon several individuals and families.
Screenwriter Stephen Gaghan “Traffic” and writer/director Paul Haggis, along with writer Bobby Moresco “Crash”, won Oscars for their sweeping ensemble screenplays. Both of those films have scripts that are a bit more literate and layered, but “Disconnect” succeeds in telling four separate compelling stories that intertwine with one another and build to a moment that is an emotional punch in the gut. It is a bit early to count any film as a contender in the Oscar race, but “Crash” won the big prize after opening in May of 2005. So anything can happen.