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The Circle Reviewed

Updated on September 12, 2017

The Circle Review

By: Rami Nawfal

With the advent of technology came a convenience upsurge in a myriad of manifestations; a progression that continues to ascend at an exponential rate as time goes by. Of course anyone with half a brain knows that technological advancement is indeed a double-edged sword. As we become more dependent on technology and surrender more of our privacy for the sake of convenience and “security”, we pave the road for the Orwellian machine’s ascendency over us as every last thing about our lives is transformed into a digital fingerprint that is stored and can be used in any way the machine sees fit. Then we’ve got the majority of modern society, which is very much in my opinion, akin to the employees of this film’s cultish eponymous company: indoctrinated drones guzzling corporate Kool-Aid and palliating their individuality with every ticking second as digital culture engulfs them and world they inhabit. “The Circle” may be correct about a multitude of things regarding our digitally crazed society and communicates the outlook that would steer the world towards this grim future. But with such a frustratingly disjointed script and razor-thin characters existing as plot devices and nothing else, it wouldn’t be right to call this film good.

Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is stuck at a dead end job answering customer complaints for a water company. She has a cheap jalopy of a car that keeps breaking down and her father Vinnie (Bill Paxton, R.I.P.) suffers from M.S. Mae’s life is about to change as her connected friend Annie (Karen Gillan) lands her an entry-level job at a San Francisco based social media conglomerate dubbed the Circle, run by the amiable Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks). Bailey introduces an undetectable eye sized camera that’s been placed all over the world, which he says will contribute heavily in alleviating criminal behavior from tyrannical governments and civilians on the wrong side of the law. A set of events have Mae rise up in the company’s ranks and deciding to go transparent 24/7 following a near-death kayaking experience. Eventually she discovers what a constantly transparent life accessible to the world truly is like.

“The Circle” is a steaming hot mess from top to bottom. A significant issue I had with this film was the arrant lack of conflict. I get the idea alright; these corporate malefactors appear benevolent and do what they do under the guise of bettering the world so everything appears fine and dandy in the eyes of the ignorant, digitally hypnotized, and social media obsessed population. But you can’t just keep going with no clear direction for the wide majority of the film, throw in one moment of tension and tragedy that practically came out of nowhere, then end the film a few minutes later. This constitutes high cinematic blasphemy; not only is it offensively sloppy screenwriting, there is no chance in hell that the message pertaining to menacing conglomerates would ever resonate. This film’s abrupt ending royally ticked me off because it basically left the audience with half a movie. Just as things were finally about to become interesting, “The Circle” opts to chicken out, consequently rendering the examination of its relevant themes of accountability, transparency, surveillance, and privacy lukewarm and languid.

There is absolutely nobody to root for in this film, not even Emma Watson’s character. The characters in “The Circle” are beyond disposable and serve as plot devices, nothing else. The screenplay has the characters making 180 degree turns in their personalities whenever it needed to move the plot forward. Mae is supposedly an intelligent lass. Instead of being alarmed by the cult-like nature of this company, its knowledge of her father’s multiple sclerosis, and a warning from her coworker Ty (John Boyega) about the Circle being up to no good, she instead ascends to the top of the company’s ranks and practically becomes an Orwellian superstar for the remainder of the film. This renders Mae less and less sympathetic, and when she finally wakes up it is far too late for anybody to care. Annie, with her bubbly personality becomes a jealous mess when Mae is chosen as the Circle’s poster girl, then immediately apprehensive when things appear to be going too far. Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), Mae’s anti-tech childhood friend, is another character that is simply inserted to shoddily present the privacy side of the transparency versus privacy debate. He’s nowhere to be seen for the rest of the film, then used as a major plot device near the film’s end, how pathetic.

“The Circle” is far too bereft of any conflict to be a thriller and too heavy-handed to be a satire. While are a few interesting bits of dialogue articulating the partially truthful ideology that is leading the world down a dangerous path, the exploration of this film’s relevant themes is half-baked on account of a clumsily constructed screenplay and woefully drab, unsympathetic characters. What a shame, because “The Circle” could’ve been a great film about how people’s freedoms are basically eroding with their very own consent, but instead it’s reduced to an aimless, confused mishmash that appears uncertain about the messages it’s attempting to convey.

My score: 4/10

© 2017 Rami Nawfal

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