Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton
The Circle attempts a sort of Big Brother-esque retelling set to the peppy social media generation we live in, but fails to make a lasting impression. The dangers of technology have been marvelously explored in dark shows such as Black Mirror. It is perhaps that darkness (or the apparent lack of it) that affects this film adversely. While the voyeuristic nature of human beings (willing to watch, share, and comment on anything, without concern for another person’s privacy) is on full display in the narrative, it’s all portrayed in a much too happy and celebratory manner.
Another problem the film faces is the casting. Emma Watson looks like anything but a grownup, leave alone as a new and transformed tech-executive who has finally opened her eyes to the systematic manipulation being carried out by a seemingly unscrupulous employer. While The Circle attempts to pose the question about where technology must draw the line, it does it in a way that is less startling than it ought to be. Because being watched all the time (and millions dogging your every move) is nothing short of a terrifying experience!
Mae Holland (Watson) gets respite from her temping job when a friend recommends her for a customer relations position at a powerful internet corporation called The Circle. At first, everything seems new and exciting. Mae keeps getting better at her work and begins to slowly fraternise. When the company is willing to extend her health insurance to her family, she is more than appreciative.
Meanwhile, The Circle’s founders have just come up with an advanced new camera that is almost the same shape and size of a human eye. They intend on connecting the entire planet with it in order to help humanity in various ways. A near-fatal adventure on a late-night kayak ride brings Mae in touch with the company’s founders. Her experience has inspired them to pitch a revolutionary idea to the up-and-coming tech executive.
Tom Hanks (who plays one of the company’s founders) is wasted in the role. A more menacing head of a technology giant bent on power and control would have suited the film better. Unfortunately, both The Circle’s creators (the other part is played by Patton Oswalt) have on this veneer of being great guys throughout.
Though we know fully well that they intend on using the information they collate to their own advantage, we see none of the backdoor scheming onscreen. Good thrillers are few and far between. And The Circle just doesn’t pull its weight in the genre.