Ok, so I like to watch things and post my unwarranted opinions about them on the internet. Today’s topic of discussion? The Circle.
In case you’re out of the loop (I know, shoot me) The Circle is the semi-latest release from the likes of Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega. I say semi-latest because it came out a whopping six days ago, and I didn’t manage to see it until last night.
The Circle was a film that I had high hopes for–that I was actually excited to see. The trailer made it out to be Black Mirror-esque, centering around a Google-like company with goals of making everyone’s lives transparent, claiming that we’re all much more well-behaved when we’re being watched.
Makes sense, right? We all know about the societal fears surrounding social media and modern day tech–the crippling fear that we may be losing our right to privacy just a little bit, day by day. It makes you pretty paranoid, doesn’t it?
Given everything I just said, I had faith in The Circle. It had a solid concept that played with real-world insecurities we humans have, and on top of that, it had a solid cast. A movie led by Hermione Granger, Forrest Gump and Finn from The Force Awakens? Going in, I looked over to my friend and said “At least it’ll be a good movie. There’s no way they can drop the ball on this one.”
Oh, they did.
Now, The Circle is by no means a terrible movie–that’s not what I’m saying at all. At the same time, however, I’m not sure that it’s even worth watching. A second viewing definitely isn’t within the books for me.
So, if not the cast and performance, where exactly does The Circle fall? To be blunt, the film simply does not go far enough given its central concept. The Circle within the film is a company focused on bringing people together, they’re obsessed with connection and transparency. The thing is, while most would find this scary and intrusive, The Circle manages to slowly infiltrate people’s lives by winning over the public’s trust, playing on their fear of the unknown. If everyone is seen, everyone is accounted for.
In the real world, this would spark countless moral issues. The Circle claims to bring about accountability, but at what cost? How much of your own privacy are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good?
This question ultimately falls on the shoulders of our lead character Mae, played by Emma Watson. Mae is young, a bit naive, but incredibly determined, especially after she receives the opportunity of a lifetime–a gig at The Circle. At first, all is well as this “guppy” learns the ropes and tries to assimilate herself into The Circle’s lifestyle–because yes, working there is much more like a way of life than a simple job you clock in and out of. This job brings about everything, and I mean everything, that this girl could hope for. The company even offers to cover the medical expenses of Mae’s father who is suffering from MS.
It’s safe to say that Mae represents us, the audience. She’s morally split in two. On one end, you have the seduction of The Circle, and on the other hand, you have Mae’s friends and family back home–a quiet little town where everyone enjoys their privacy. The film is, or rather should be, about Mae’s struggle with right and wrong. She isn’t heavily opinionated, and instead of making choices and doing things, things happen to her.
As I mentioned earlier, this film seemed like it could be a feature-length episode of Black Mirror. I know drawing comparisons isn’t the best thing to do here, but one can’t help but comment on their thematic parallels. Black Mirror is without a doubt an effective show, and it’s safe to say that most of that can be credited to the fact that it delves deep within our minds and explores the endless terrifying possibilities that come about given modern technology. We fantasize, we worry. We’ve all heard of people being doxxed, or celebrity nudes being leaked, or about the Ashley Madison scandal. We’ve all got things to hide, and we’re all curious about everyone else’s secrets. Black Mirror knows this, and exploits it to horrifically effective results. The show cuts deep, and leaves you feeling gutted each time.
I’m by no means saying that each show or film needs to be as dark as Black Mirror, but The Circle definitely wanted to go in that direction. It felt as though it was holding back, like it was more comfortable implying what could happen rather than actually taking the leap and exploring it along with the audience. It hints, it nibbles–but never gets to the guts. Given the potential of a topic like this, not exploring all questions it presents can only lead you in one direction–a boring, bland mess that takes the lowest hanging fruit. The Circle did have some moments where it tried playing with technophobia, but even then it barely scratched the surface. Moments that were meant to be horrific and gutting felt empty and weightless.
I don’t hate The Circle, but I am massively disappointed in it. It had everything working in its favor–an amazing cast, a concept that needed to be explored on the big screen; yet somehow it managed to fall flat. I’m hoping something in the future will come along soon and take this concept to its full potential. Until then, I’ll be waiting.