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Movie Review: "The Circle"

Updated on May 29, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Circle

Theatrical Release: 4/28/2017
Theatrical Release: 4/28/2017 | Source


Mae (Emma Watson) is a struggling young woman. She works as a customer service representative for a water company, which basically means she is on the phone all day with angry customers, making next to nothing. On top of that, she feels she is not fulfilling her potential, but that is when she gets a call from her best friend Annie (Karen Gillan), who works for an innovative social media juggernaut called the Circle. Annie gets Mae a job at the company and Mae sees the opportunity as a huge stepping stone for her future, whatever that may be.

In a company meeting, CEO Bailey (Tom Hanks) reveals a new product that the Circle has been working on. This product, is a tiny, high-quality camera that can be discreetly placed. It was created for the purpose of eliminating privacy from politicians and world leaders, but in order to test the product, Mae finds herself as one of the first people to go "transparent". From when she wakes up to when she goes to bed, Mae's every word, action, and interaction will be recorded and broadcasted on the Circle. Is this technology good or bad, and what does it mean for the future of things like privacy and liability?

Official Trailer

The Pros and Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Both Sides (+10pts)
John Boyega (-5pts)
Emma Watson (+6pts)
Karen Gillan (-4pts)
Tom Hanks & Patton Oswalt (+5pts)
The Ending (-3pts)

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then awarded for each Pro and taken away for each Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points ranging from 0-10 allowing me to convey to you how significant these Pros or Cons are.


Pro: Both Sides (+10pts)

This movie presented a revolutionary piece of surveillance technology that was integrated into a social media giant. I thought the filmmakers did an excellent job of weighing both sides of what this technology would mean to the general population. They showed this technology giving huge benefits and saving lives, but they also showed how it could put lives at risk. The movie showed how this technology could connect people and improve quality of life, but it also showed areas in which this technology can diminish quality of life and drive people isolate people. I really got the impression that the writers cared about making sure that the positives and negatives were accurately and fairly depicted in this movie, and I thought that they achieved this. The movie challenges its audience by giving viewers an interesting debate on a relevant issue: privacy.


Con: John Boyega (-5pts)

My problem with this character had nothing to do with the actor playing him, but rather, how little we actually saw of the character. I do not want to give away who this character was, and what their role was with the Circle, but what I can say is that his backstory was very important to the plot of the movie. Unfortunately, the filmmakers gave hardly any focus to developing the character. This was a shame because he had a rather interesting story that could have been shown on screen, and it would have made me a lot more interested in the movie. Showing his story would have made the overall movie more impactful, as it would have been compelling to watch the contrast between John Boyega and Tom Hanks' characters, while Emma Watson's character was caught between the two. Long story short, the filmmakers had an interesting character here, whose story could have significantly improved my interest in the movie, but the filmmakers ultimately ended up giving him too little focus.


Pro: Emma Watson (+6pts)

While I do not think there was any one scene in which Emma Watson blew me away with her performance, this movie needed a talented actress in the lead role. As I said before, this movie relied on playing with the audience's stance on this innovative technology. The movie was constantly going back and forth, weighing the good and the bad in a way that, I think, worked really well. However, we are experiencing the events of this movie from the perspective of Mae (Emma Watson), so in order for the "back and forth" element to work, the actress playing Mae needed to be able to play the "back and forth" opinion convincingly. The filmmakers needed us, the audience, to be conflicted on this issue, and in order to do that, we needed to believe that the main character could have gone either way with it. Her opinion of the technology was a twisting and turning roller-coaster, and I thought Emma Watson did a very good job playing that in a natural and believable way.


Con: Karen Gillan (-4pts)

Much like my issue John Boyega‘s character, my complaint here was not with the actress (Karen Gillan), but with the character she played. We saw Annie (Karen Gillan) in multiple stages throughout the movie. She ranged from happy and successful to a depressed mess. I thought Karen nailed the performance, but we never learn what the character did at the company. We never saw or learned what she did to achieve her success, and we never saw what caused her downfall. The result was a character that I did not care about, because I knew almost nothing of her story.

I found it interesting that Annie and Mae had basically opposite trajectories. While Mae was struggling to make ends meet, Annie was a big success at the Circle. Then, as Mae’s success began to skyrocket, Annie’s plummeted. Unfortunately, this character’s story got almost no attention. I think one of this movie's biggest problems was that it had too many interesting side characters, and the two hour film did not have enough time to explore them properly. I feel like this movie could have been split into an entire season of a TV series in which each episode explores a different character. However, by cramming it all into a movie like this one, characters like Annie suffered.


Pro: Tom Hanks & Patton Oswalt (+5pts)

I really enjoyed watching these two in this movie. Their characters were mysterious in the sense that I could never really tell what their intentions were. Were they good or were they bad? This was a question the filmmakers wanted their audience to ask themselves throughout the movie, and they certainly had me wondering. These two actors played their roles very convincingly, which made their characters absolutely captivating for me. Part of me always knew whether they were good or bad, but the filmmakers delivered a few scenes that made me uncertain. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt are two talented actors, and their roles in this movie were ones that made this movie a lot more interesting than it would have been without them.


Con: The Ending (-3pts)

The rising action in this movie was done very well, but I thought the ending was a bit anti-climactic. I do not plan on giving anything away, so this point will be vague, but I felt like the ending left the audience with a lot of questions. What was Mae's current role? What were Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt's characters up to? What was the current state of the Circle? This did not entirely ruin the movie for me, I just found the ending to be a bit unfulfilling, as it felt like there were too many things left unresolved.

Grading Scale


Grade: B- (84pts)

The Circle was a pretty interesting movie, because it presented a world not too unlike our own. It was a story about a new piece of innovative technology was revealed that would revolutionize the world for better or for worse. What the filmmakers did so well, was to show both the good and the bad that could come from such technology. The movie had a fair balance by showing extremes on both sides, which caused the main character (and the audience along with her) to be caught in the middle, leaning different ways during different points in the movie.

Where I thought the filmmakers fell short was with the unfulfilling ending and the underdeveloped side characters. These things did not hurt the movie tremendously, and I was amused by the unfulfilling ending, because there was a point in which Mae said that her greatest fear was "unfulfilled potential." Yet that was exactly what the ending of this movie felt like to me, which made Mae's line feel like a really unfortunate piece of foreshadowing. However, I liked that the movie challenged its audiences' opinion of new technology in an effective and compelling way. It certainly fell short of its potential, but there was a compelling, though-provoking story here.


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