The Circle (2017) – Film Review

“As the events of the film march on, nothing really…happens. We acknowledge the fact that something shady is going on at this company, sure. So, how do we fix it? Right the wrongs being done to the public? Well…don’t get your hopes up.”

Based upon a 2013 novel by Dave Eggers, The Circle tries too hard to tackle contemporary social issues—concerning personal privacy and the boundaries of the internet—and fails.

Unlike the book—which, in my research, seems to follow more of an “underdog story” arc, concerning protagonist, Mae Holland—the film is so very up-front with the problems it’s trying to address that it becomes unbelievable. The presentation of the more “critical” or “tragic” moments, then, become absurd; I actually busted out laughing in the theatre, during two of the more “serious” moments of the film. Other times, I was looking at my watch, wondering when the film would end, or simply nodding off out of boredom.

The main weakness of the film, as I said, is in its attempt to tackle digital privacy issues. How much integration is too much? And how long will it take the public to realize it’s been taken advantage of by their tech overlords? Anything can be sold to people, if enough of a positive spin is put on it, and this movie shows it. It’s a fast-and-hard critique of this generation’s openness and sense of right and wrong.

This film really satirizes millennials. While I love to see that kind of thing done right, it gets to the point of incredibility here. The internet-savvy, open-to-anything idiots working for the magnanimous Circle are made the butt of a very in-your-face joke—you’ll see what I mean when the scene comes up, pretty early on in the film—but the ridiculousness of such borders on getting up and walking out of the theatre. Not that I felt personally insulted (I have no generational label), but it was beating a dead horse. We get it, let’s move on. Entertain me, movie…

As the events of the film march on, nothing really…happens. We acknowledge the fact that something shady is going on at this company, sure. So, how do we fix it? Right the wrongs being done to the public? Well…don’t get your hopes up.

The film kind of just slogs along, introducing characters that seem pertinent, but then disappear into obscurity by act three. I’m talking about John Boyega’s Ty, the alleged creator of the Circle’s far-reaching operating system. In the novel, he is a hinge character that actually has an arc and a conclusion; in the film, he’s there for all of five minutes of screen-time, and then altogether disappears, without any explanation. Another discrepancy is what happens to Mae’s friend and her company in, Annie (Karen Gillan), between act one and the end of act two. It’s like a whole section of her story is missing—is she sick, stressed, or being threatened to keep quiet? In the book, it’s covered, but is glossed over sloppily in the film.

She, too, disappears by the end of the film, never to be seen again, after an odd and ill-fitting role-reversal of the two women at a critical juncture.

Otherwise, Emma Watson’s Mae and Tom Hanks’s Eamon Bailey—the head of this giant company—feel flat and under-developed. Their arcs are lacking in substance, and both actors’ talents are extremely under-used.

Seeing Bill Paxton star in this film was a pleasant surprise, but couldn’t save the film from itself; it’s a lot of techy fast-talking that made me lose focus on the story—or lack thereof—too many times for me to care.

Oh, yea, and the film just ends—no real conclusion, no wrap-up for even the protagonist, just…back to where we started. Literally. The exact same shot. Nothing has changed—as far as I can see—and the credits roll without a real sense of anybody having done anything. This film had a lot of potential to be something great, something monumental in a time where internet privacy is such a pivotal concern. If a more-direct translation of the novel, it could’ve even been entertaining…

Final ‘Risk Assessment: */****.

Next review: The Wall (May 12th)

Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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