Release date: 28th April 2017 (US)
Run-time: 1h 50m
Director: James Ponsoldt
Certifications: 12/ PG 13
Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega and more
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 15%
IMDb rating: 5.3/10
Trailer: The Circle
Mae Holland (Emma Watson) seizes the opportunity of a lifetime when she lands a job with the world’s most powerful technology and social media company. Encouraged by the company’s founder (Tom Hanks), Mae joins a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes soon starts to affect the lives and futures of her friends, family and that of humanity.
Hi there, bloggers! Hope your Monday is going fantastically. I recently got around to watching The Circle, a movie which has been on my radar ever since I first saw the trailer, and although I had mixed feelings towards it, I still felt it worth discussing. Now, I know the film is based on a novel of the same name, and I definitely want to read it in the near future. For now, I’ll talk about what I garnered from the film itself, and the positives and negatives of the adaptation. Let’s get into it:
Like the synopsis says, the story follows a young woman named Mae who lives a fairly ordinary life, working an unfulfilling job. When she gets the opportunity to work at the prestigious Circle as a customer service expert, it seems almost too good to be true. The company places emphasis on the necessity of technological developments, socialising through the media, and providing security via surveillance. When Mae decides to go public and allow the world to see everything that she sees in her everyday life, she soon realises that it isn’t as easygoing as it appears.
What I liked:
The premise. The idea of a large, extremely wealthy and powerful social media company developing new, innovative ways of communicating and connecting online isn’t a new one. In fact, there are several of those around right now. What the movie deals with is the question of boundaries and privacy; is it a good thing to have constant, instant access to everyone else’s life? At what point is our privacy completely exploited by technology? Has it already begun? Is it destined to get worse? These are all ideas that both fascinate and terrify me. The Circle has developed tiny, high definition cameras that are virtually invisible, which can be placed anywhere without hindrance to capture high-quality images. The company markets them as hugely positive things, capable of bringing an end to things like terrorism and reducing crime. And I could totally see this happening in real life! But what I loved is that we as an audience are the ones who are left feeling slightly uncomfortable with the idea, while the tech-savvy engineers of The Circle, led by Tom Hanks, all celebrate this amazing technology. It raises an interesting question of just how far technology will go before we are ruled by it.
The actors. Although Emma could have done a better job at portraying Mae’s conflicting thoughts about the company’s position on privacy, she didn’t do a terrible job. Tom Hanks was the one who stole the show for me. As the confident, intelligent leader of the company, he has no problems motivating his employees to support the cause. John Boyega is a strong actor no matter what he acts in, but I wish he was given more screen time, as his character was barely explored.
The portrayal of social media. When Mae goes public with a camera allowing the world to see what she sees, the movie does a fantastic job of showing how the public interacts with her. She welcomes comments from the online community, which show up around the screen in waves, and I loved how accurate they were. Most were lovely comments supporting Mae. Some were random comments that had nothing to do with her situation. Some expressed fear and concern at how Mae might be brainwashed, because the invasion of privacy seemed unfathomable. And a lot were from trolls who had little of interest to say. I just really loved this feature, and the accurate portrayal of the online community.
What I disliked:
The pacing. The movie is almost two hours, but at no point did it feel like it was accurately paced. The characters never got enough time to properly interact, and each quarter of the film felt slightly disjointed. I think this is why the ratings haven’t been high, because the film takes on an idea that could have been portrayed in a more harrowing and interesting way but doesn’t quite know what to do with it.
The atmosphere. Like I said, I haven’t read the book and don’t know how closely the film followed it, but I will say that the atmosphere started off strong. We’re newbies to the workings of The Circle just like Mae, and I feel like the film could have been much darker, as Mae (and the audience) begins to realise the implications of developing newer technology just to have eyes on everybody, all the time. It’s a fascinating idea, but was not executed properly.
Mae’s character change. I really wished the movie took the stance that, at first, Mae was star-struck by The Circle, until she began to come to her senses and saw the worrying effects of its technological advancements. It just felt like Mae’s sudden desire to go public made little sense, and I couldn’t understand Mae’s character as her thought processes were quite muddled.
The confusing views on privacy. It felt like the film tried so hard to push the idea that more surveillance is a positive thing. No one in the company appeared to think of it as a worrying use of privacy invasion, which it is. Mae could have fought it, but like I said, her character was confusing. John Boyega’s character appeared to be the only one to have reservations, but he was barely given screen time. I wish the film was grittier, perhaps exploring the effects of brainwashing or corruption to try to explain why everyone was so on board with tiny cameras watching everything at all times.
The ending. It just didn’t pack as big of a punch as it could have. There were no twists or character reveals, and the entire thing fell a little flat. Had the movie given adequate attention to Mae’s increasing concern about The Circle’s push for heavy surveillance, the ending could have shown her trying to break free from its hold in a more interesting way.
So, would I recommend the film? It’s hard to say. Because although the plot is super interesting, the movie didn’t flow well and I felt a little let down after finishing it. However, it does get you thinking, and it opens discussions about the extent to which we’re watched everyday without even realising. My recommendation would be to read the book and see if it offers a more believable and in-depth exploration of the workings of The Circle, because the movie failed to do so.
My rating: 4/10 stars
That’s it for today! I’ll have some book reviews and more out as the week goes on, so look out for those. Thanks so much for reading!