Film Review: The Circle (2017)

Director: James Ponsoldt

Writer: James Ponsoldt & Dave Eggars

Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks

Synopsis: Mae (Watson) is in a dead-beat job with a broken-down car. So when she lands a job at the prodigious company The Circle, she feels like her life is turning around. Gradually she discovers the truth about what is happening there…

The thing with The Circle is that I expected a very different film. The trailer depicted a different film to what I got, and indeed the first two thirds of the film itself led me to believe I was going to get the film I was expecting.

However, that turned out to not be the case.

Mae (Emma Watson), lands a job at “The Circle” a high-tech firm in a similar vein to Facebook. The CEO (Hanks) is lauded as a celebrity and everyone enjoys magnificent, lavish parties where Beck apparently play a gig. So far, so very Facebook / Apple / Google.

When Hanks introduces the new camera the company have invented, showing that thousands of them have been planted across the country – perhaps even the world – it’s clear that this is a company who on the surface believe that everything should be ‘transparent’. But in the private offices of the major players, it’s an entirely different story.

My main problem, as I’ve said, is that this feels like it’s going somewhere it never gets. It feels like there’s something very sinister going on. From Hanks’ lo-tech, apparently technology free office, where secret discussions take place, to John Boyega’s mysterious character who invented the software that made The Circle what it is, then dropped out of sight of the world, to the way The Circle get Watson to ‘volunteer’ to become ‘transparent’ to the world 24/7 – essentially to have a webcam pinned to her, except for 3 minute toilet breaks. It really feels like the film is building up to something dark and creepy.

But that never happens.

Instead, what we get is ‘a message’. A message that feels so hurried and forced that it’s like the writers simply had no idea where the film was going and decided to just end it. There were so many undeveloped threads, such as the aforementioned character played by an underused Boyega, who serves literally no purpose other than to show Watson where the servers are based and look like he’s possibly going to do something bad to her whilst we still believe that something bad may happen.

Some great ideas, but ultimately it feels disappointing. If the ending is really the way they wanted to go, this would have made a great Black Mirror episode, or just a standalone 15 – 30 minute short. To have it play out for so long and then fizzle out completely at the end was a real shame.

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