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No Escape And No Anonymity--An Absolutely Riveting Concept Lost In An Uncertain Execution
on June 17, 2011
As the intriguing documentary "Erasing David" began, I suddenly got all excited. An absolutely killer premise is introduced and I knew that I was going to love this film. Taking on an important and timely topic, filmmaker and star David Bond wants to explore the corporate and governmental intrusion into our privacy. Ridiculous amounts of our personal information is stored in various databases and, in many ways, this can lead to unexpectedly negative consequences. I think that's a given--identity theft and fraud have certainly been the fastest growing areas of criminal enterprise in recent years. And it's all because our private data is accessible, either purposefully or by accident, in more ways and to more people than we can possibly imagine. To prove his point, Bond tackles a fantastic experiment. Leaving his family behind, he wants to go off the grid for thirty days and see if a private investigation firm can track him down based on publicly accessible information.
Some of the set-up scenes are really well done. It was especially interesting to see Bond contact various corporate enterprises and request reports as to the information they kept on him. Also, the more intimate sequences involving his wife and daughter had a genuine warmth and humor. He also visits a couple of people who had issues with mistaken identity or fraudulent activity on their names--and it's all but impossible to unring that bell! But again, it's not a revelatory concept in this day and age. I've heard stories much worse than those presented here. Strangely, though, the most important aspect of the film feels a bit thin. The main part of Bond's documentary is him going to ground--it is an idea and concept that I found genuinely compelling. Early scenes, however, seem fairly contrived. And later moments veer into over-the-top territory.
Set up as a thriller of sorts, the investigators immediately dig up Bond's trash. Inside are complete travel arrangements, credit card receipts (with numbers fully intact), and other personal information that should have been shredded. On his trip, he visits his father and plans to visit his mother--not much of a challenge. He also never quits using his blackberry or answering email. As this is not government surveillance, they don't track him this way except when he reacts to a specific email they send him. All of this is fine, if rudimentary, but things get a bit wacky as a paranoid Bond searches for bugs in his possessions or freaks out in the middle of a desolate countryside. Bugs, really? I'd be more worried about that Blackberry. The thrilling conclusion is done like some big operation--but even I could have found him. Seriously.
Bond had an excellent idea for a film. He presents an important topic--one we should all think about--in an entertaining way. But somewhere, the film misses its potential. In this day and age, when people are so savvy to tracking techniques by watching television and movies, the grand experiment and the steps utilized within it just aren't that compelling or surprising. There is a great movie to be made using the same idea and I most definitely want to see it. "Erasing David," however, just seems too thin and obvious. But a nice try. KGHarris, 6/11.