THE CIRCLE (2017), based on the bestselling novel by Dave Eggers, is a delightful surprise for low expectations. The film received a lot of negative reviews but I enjoyed its execution, and best of all, its ideas made me think.
Mae (the lovely Emma Watson, showing off her acting chops) works a dead-end customer service job, struggling to pay the bills and support her parents, particularly her father (the great Bill Paxton) who is struggling with MS. Her friend lands her a job at the Circle, a vast high-tech company that is changing the world by leveraging social interaction and connectivity. At first, she’s overwhelmed by the cult-like society in the company led by its founders, including Bailey (played with perfect charm and menace by Tom Hanks, who is aging super well), but an incident convinces her to join the club. She agrees to wear a camera on her at all times and put them in every room in her house, embracing full “transparency.” This platform gives her importance in the company and gains her a vast following. When she sees the negative consequences of this, she seeks justice the only way she can.
As a story, it’s engaging, particularly through good directing, a competent script, and excellent acting performances by everybody in the film. The ending is a bit oversimplified, but it works despite its moral ambiguity about what comes next. What’s most engaging about the film is its core ideas. In a series of TED-style talks, Bailey tells his employees about all the positive and compelling personal and societal benefits of new technologies, though he’s obviously less into changing the world and more into making money through social control. This part of the movie has a strong BLACK MIRROR vibe. We see the negative side through surveillance and snap judgment by our peers, the loss of being genuine and human, manipulation through social pressure, and aggression via unchecked mob mentality. In this film, mit isn’t the government we should be afraid of, it’s corporations with too much power and most of all, each other.
I went into it expecting typical Hollywood but enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, and I loved its ideas.