Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: THE CIRCLE (2017): A High Concept That Fails to Deliver [Tribeca 2017]

John Boyega Emma Watson The Circle

The Circle Review

The Circle (2017) Film Review from the 16th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie directed by John Ponsoldt and starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Contrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly, and Bill Paxton.

A film about privacy being given up for security and staying connected is relevant in a time where people are addicted to their mobile devices and social media profiles, having a great cast isn’t enough to produce enough build-up for a techno-thriller that draws from the conspiracy films from the 70s. It’s a lifeless story that will have audiences looking away from the screen and being more occupied on their devices.

The biggest issue with The Circle is the script, which was adapted from the 2014 novel that it’s based off of. Rather than making Emma Watson’s character Mae Holland relatable, she comes off as an immature and naïve person. After being stuck in a no-end customer service position, she gets the opportunity of a lifetime when her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her an interview at The Circle – a big tech company that’s a conglomerate of Apple, Google, and Facebook. After getting the job at customer service, she becomes part of this huge community of people working at the company, which looks a lot like a big college campus with parties and concerts. Not everyone is thrilled with her new job, expecially her friend Mercer (Ellar Contrane), who’s not into the wonders of technology. Her parents, played by Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton in one of his final roles as a man with MS, are supportive of this after the company provides them with some great health care benefits.

Mae suddenly gains the attention of the company’s CEO Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and COO Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt). They decide to have her become part of an experiment involving their latest product, a small marble-sized camera that can be put anywhere in the world and provide surveillance. The purpose of this camera is to witness anything that happens, whether good or bad, to the public. This project also has Mae record her daily life at the company to the world making her a global reality star. So why is she chosen? Well that’s because she’s a new employee and not as familiar with her workplace as her other colleagues. She’s also in support of this, just like anyone else. Imagine having your life on record every day for millions to see and gain some attention.

However, not everything is what it seems. Mae gets instant fame, getting text messages from everywhere around the world, but her loved ones also get some unwanted attention because of it. She also meets the mysterious creator of The Circle’s TruYou gadget, Ty (John Boyega) who tells her that he isn’t supportive of what the company is doing to his creation. The new program makes a user’s online activity public, eliminating the concept of privacy and starting the process of democratization. Using the new program on the omnipotent camera would allow the company to have immense power over the modern world.

With any thriller, there’s always the conclusion of the hero trying to undo the damage done to them. With Mae, she comes to her senses and finds out the The Circle’s plans, but only after a tragedy that occurs to her due to the consequences of the company’s actions. After partnering up with Ty, Mae ends up changing the fate of The Circle by exposing her bosses. The journey to the film’s epic conclusion becomes very vague and unrealistic; along with some plot holes by the director and slow editing.

The film’s future also rests on Emma Watson’s shoulders, but even she can’t save the movie’s downtrodden plot. She doesn’t show enough strength in her role like her other films and she also becomes more of a fool. Boyega has little to do in the film and comes off more as a man behind the scenes. Even Hanks doesn’t offer more to the role than just acting as himself for most of the film.

The Circle takes on a high concept but fails at its execution. If the film was released a few years ago, it would’ve been more relevant to audiences regarding surveillance in our society indulged in social media. The pacing was slow and tries too hard to appeal to viewers. The performances aren’t memorable, as it should with this amazing cast. Even with a beautifully shot film, it just fails to entertain to the masses.

Rating: 3/10

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About the author

Mufsin Mahbub

Mufsin is a freelance writer from New York who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism at Long Island University. He has written for publications like HollywoodLife, Clubplanet, and Heavy. He is an avid lover for everything related to TV and film. He has gone to dozens of film screenings, press events, and loves to attend New York Comic Con every year. He gives an honest opinion on every TV show or film that people are going to be talking about.

  • Ron Olivier

    Though the concept was indeed very intriguing, the missing spark was that I never could understand the rationale behind Mae’s thought processes. Sure, I can understand the sense of gratitude she may have early on that might lead to the rash decisions, but to wear a camera 24/7? I didn’t read the book, but I can imagine that the printed page let the reader get into her head a bit more, and perhaps that would have helped. In the movie, I just couldn’t believe that somebody would willingly do something that stupid and think it was a good idea.

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