Movie Review: The Circle (2017)
Director: James Ponsoldt
Stars: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks
The film The Circle (2017) by Director James Ponsoldt, just got released onto Canadian Netflix this week, which means it is absolutely time for a comprehensive review. Mae (Emma Watson) lands a job — thanks to her friend — in the world's most advanced and well-known tech company, called “The Circle.” Giveaway title, amiright? By advanced, I don’t just mean cool cell phones and laptops thinner than a piece of paper, I’m talking about a revolutionary new way of thinking about the technology that we use.
In the film, your “Circles” are those social media groups that you belong to, with people who share similar interests to you. Mae did not place importance on this in the beginning of the movie, but was assured that her place in the company would improve if she got more socially involved. So, breaking out of her shell and entering into the world of her “Circle,” Mae finds that there are a lot of people with the same interests, family problems, and hobbies as her. We see her begin to take an interest in talking to the people around her and getting help for her father, who was diagnosed with MS.
Onto the exciting stuff now that we have the basics down. Mae listens into a plan that Eamon (Tom Hanks) shares with the employees of a super small and almost invisible camera with suberb surveillance capabilities that he plans to launch. This would eliminate all privacy, crimes, secrets, and hidden agendas. Even a congresswoman comes onto the stage at one point to become “transparent,” meaning that everyone can see everything she does at any given moment of any given day. Minus the bathroom. Gross.
After taking a rebellious journey that included stealing a kayak, Mae announces that she will also be “Transparent” and begins working with Eamon on the plans for this project for the future. (SPOILER: Of course, in the end, she creates a society where only things that should be shared are shared, but we’ll get to that later.)
The concept of this movie was phenomenal. Absolutely astounding. It raises questions of ethics, moral beliefs, standards of living, what constitutes a “human right,” all so eloquently put together by a massive tech company. Do we see this in our future, perhaps? I’ll admit, it seems to be a pretty relatable concept.
It was a goal of the directors of The Circle to get a small camera on every building in the whole world, to be able to see absolutely everything that happens, anywhere, at any given time. This would raise more than a few questions. Crimes would have to be committed in different ways, but there would be no doubt that crime rates would decrease. I mean, what if you were about to kill someone and you realize that everyone in the entire world would have immediate access to not only your location, but your actions? Yeah, I bet you wouldn’t go through with it. Privacy, on the other hand, would have to come from taking off all cameras and basically hiding from view. Mae shows us this though “Soul Search,” a new program that utilizes her two milion something ‘followers’ in her Circle to find one specific person anywhere in the world. Neat, right? She finds a convicted felon in under 20 minutes! For that use, this program and their cameras would be absolutely amazing. But there would be no limits! Like what we see next with her friend Mercer (I won’t spoil that one for you!).
The implications of being able to find anyone on the planet, at any given moment, and for any given reason, are downright terrifying. How would you manage to get off the grid? You would have to be where cameras are not, but where wouldn’t there be cameras? You’d be caught extremely quickly for any sort of misbehavior — underage drinking, drugs, dealing, vandalism, stealing, even playing Bejeweled at work! It almost takes all the fun out of even mundane things. You wouldn’t be able to be alone with your own thoughts watching a movie, or baking a pie.
What a revolutionary idea. Surveillance. I know that everyone talks about how the government is “listening in through our phones” and how we’re “never alone” but this movie brings all of that to light, in a new light. The advanced age of ultimate surveillance and transparency.
Mae, being on the right side of the fight, later gets up onstage at a conference and makes Eamon and another director go “Transparent” which they absolutely did not want to do. Of course there had to be the hidden agenda. Of course they had to go down with the use of their own technology! Go Hermione! … I mean, Emma Watson… I mean, Mae!! Seriously, I can’t get over how well she does a US accent. Every time she went to speak, I was always expecting a British one.
ANYWAYS. I give this movie a solid 4/10. Amazing concept, amazing cast, a decent plot, but extremely predictable. I believe that this movie should have been shot as more of a thriller — having the government "after fugitives that are unwilling to be transparent," like a total hunt down for total world surveillance. Either way, I wasn’t too disappointed, and I might throw it on again but not pay too much attention to it while it’s on in the background, ya know?
Until next review, movie watchers!