Judge Daryl Loomis tries to disappear nightly, but everybody claims he's not actually invisible...fools.
In the age of technology, is it possible to disappear?
Of course, the answer to that question is no, but that doesn't mean that David Bond didn't try. In what might be considered a questionable move, he starts a game of hide-and-seek with a pair of private investigators, he attempts to drop off the grid for thirty days while they try to find him using whatever methods they have at their disposal. The result is Erasing David, a sometimes fascinating documentary that looks at the myriad ways in which the government, corporations, and random citizens can access an individual's private information for any purpose they desire.
The gimmick of Erasing David is clearly inspired by the work of Morgan Spurlock, but his attempts to hide only take up a third of the film. The rest is interviews with experts on security and footage of the weeks that came before his escape, which seeded the idea for his journey. The film is at its best in these scenes, which detail Bond's acquisition of his own information from various companies and websites. In the hundreds of pages he receives back, he finds out a lot. None of it is damaging in itself, but the totality of it amounts to a complete record of his life and, by proxy, all of our lives. Have you ever ordered a gift for somebody on Amazon.com? They have a plethora of information on you (and the recipient), as a result. Everything we purchase and, seemingly, every move we make is recorded into some database somewhere for some purpose. Whether the intentions are innocuous or not, they collected without our knowledge or consent, except that the pages of user agreements nobody ever reads authorizes all of it.
Given the rise of the security state, of which England has pulled to the forefront, none of the information in the documentary is terribly shocking to think about logically; it all falls in line with the changes in domestic and international policy that have happened since 9/11. The extent of it is unsettling, though. As Bond travels across Europe, he talks to security experts, who advise him on what he's doing. Their advice amounts to telling him that trying to escape is hopeless, and that eventually comes to pass. If he was able to escape, it would completely defeat the purpose of the film, so it's hard to tell whether Bond's capture is honest, but it doesn't really matter. More important is how easily two well-connected individuals, but not government types, could track the man across Europe without a huge amount of effort. There is inherent drama in the chase, even if it's a gimmick, and the talking heads make plenty of salient points about the National Security State and the trouble with sacrificing freedoms for theoretical security.
Erasing David has been given a solid DVD treatment by MPI, better than most documentaries get. The image transfer and sound are both average; it looks and sounds cheap because it is, but it's all decent. The extras are quite good, however. A series of interviews with some of the experts who appear in the film give some deeper perspective into their respective fields. They total about twenty minutes and all are valuable. A debate with Bond and a panel at the premiere is less essential, but mildly interesting. A group of deleted scenes, labeled as short films, are the best of the bunch, with additional information on biorhythms, ID cards, and the massive web of data you leave across the web. A trailer closes us out.
The film is a little bit gimmicky, but Erasing David generally works very well. Like the information Bond presents, the film has a ton of little thing that don't mean a lot individually, but together make for a compelling, occasionally disturbing story that makes me want to read those user agreements more closely…although I probably won't. Recommended.
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