WRITER-director Andrew Niccol is the latest to zoom in on the idea of surveillance and lack of privacy, this time as the basis for a sci-fi noir murder mystery.

A dive into a world where believing what you see is everything, it is conceptually compelling and visually slick, although narratively lacking.

Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) is a police detective in a world where anonymity, and by extension crime, is practically non-existent because of a system that allows people to see anyone’s personal details in their field of vision. Furthermore, everyone’s memories are uploaded to the “Ether” and can be reviewed at a later date.

When Sal is assigned to investigate a mysterious killer who seems to be able to edit his or herself out of any records, he encounters an enigmatic hacker known only as Anon (Amanda Seyfried) who may hold the key to solving the case.

Niccol continues to showcase his talent for creating believable, unsettlingly detached worlds with built-in social commentary brutally relevant to our own.

While far from the heights of Gattaca and The Truman Show (which he wrote but didn’t direct), his vision of systemic surveillance is a neat concept and in execution his chillingly washed-out dystopian world feels inherently satisfying because it consistently plays by its own heightened rules.

Owen is well cast as the downtrodden yet dogged detective and Seyfried adds shadowy mystique. But despite their best efforts, the central whodunit mystery system is fairly light and easily solvable. It certainly doesn’t feel worthy of its intricate world, which soaks up in earnest influences from sources as diverse as the futuristic crime prevention of Minority Report to the future noir paranoia of Dark City.

There’s a nice sense of visual inventiveness along the way, particularly in how it weaves the POV reliving of memories into the investigation.

The film ultimately succumbs to genre tropes that leave the last act feeling like a disappointing wrap-up to what came before. However, there’s enough bandwidth in the compelling, stylishly visualised concept to sustain it.

The film is available in cinemas and on Sky.