Usually, when you think of a dystopian future, it is post-war or after humanity destroyed the environment. However, in The Circle, the dystopian future is when all privacy is lost and similar to a handful of Black Mirror episodes, no one is who they truly are.
Characters & Storyline
Wouldn’t it be cool to work at Google, Facebook, or one of these big time companies which have free food for their employees, the type of benefits, besides health benefits, that you only associate with entertainers? Well, Mae (Emma Watson) wouldn’t mind that. Especially since, when the movie begins, she is just working as a temp at the local water plant. However, thanks to her friend Annie (Karen Gillan), she gets an interview at The Circle. Think Google but with a real commitment to making their products better instead of abandoning them when they get bored.
Though, perhaps go a step further. Imagine if Google+ was in the position Facebook was in. A profile is needed to access some sites, to provide comments, and there are ideas of even going beyond that! That is part of the dream for Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt). Something that, with the help of Mae, they find themselves in full pursuit of. A world, including governments, which rely on The Circle for elections, transparency, and so much more.
However, when a person loses privacy, when their intimate moments are now open to view, when secrets are treated as lies and looked down upon, does this bring you some sense of safety? Does this make you feel like you are part of a global community? Or does it make you feel that now, with you always being watched, you can never be yourself? That every special moment loses meaning for between your own devices, and cameras the size of marbles, everyone has access to them. That is what is slightly explored in The Circle.
Essentially, Everything Featured Is Built Off The Program By A Black Man
Though Ty (John Boyega) plays a drastically smaller role than expected, with it being noted that his Facebook/Google+ like program is the foundation for much of The Circle’s success, I got to admit I was proud. If only for the sake of representation.
Hanks and Watson are Likable Enough
I remain unsure if Watson could truly carry a movie, but I do feel her likability will carry her career a long way. But when it comes to really drawing you in, Hanks, as usual, is the one who provides some sort of hook. For with him playing a sort of Steve Jobs, with a sense of humor and no patronizing tone, you almost get as excited to see him as the actors on screen. For there is just something about his presence which goes beyond just being a trusted and familiar face. Be it his slight twang or just his friendly uncle vibe, you are immediately captured by him even if he isn’t saying anything really that interesting.
On The Fence
It Doesn’t Go in The Direction You Expect
As noted, you would have thought Ty’s part in the film would have been much bigger. Especially considering that he isn’t fond of the way Eamon and Tom are using his technology. Yet, the film doesn’t hone in on his paranoia and his belief that things have to change. It goes a completely different direction which is a bit polarizing.
The reason I say this is because the ending doesn’t give you closure, a comeuppance, or anything like that. In fact, it leaves you feeling like Mae didn’t learn from any of her mistakes. As if her “Drinking the kool-aid” effect didn’t wear off. Which I found weird since the crappily built relationship between her and Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) you’d think would have been a real light bulb which could have opened her eyes to the idea that perhaps privacy is a good thing, that maybe The Circle was going too far.
However, instead, we get to see what The Joker mentions in The Dark Knight. We see, from Mae to Eamon, people not die a hero but live long enough to be seen as villains. Yet, unlike The Joker, they win.
Overall: Negative (Skip It)
A part of me wants to label this as mixed but let me tell you why I’m saying to skip it: It doesn’t spark ideas or conversation. In many ways, The Circle feels neutered and neutral. It neither desires to do like Black Mirror or Mr. Robot and criticize social media, companies which sell the data we put out there for profit and really explore the ramifications of sharing our daily lives and thinking people as strange when they don’t as well. Instead, it touches on the issues but almost seems like it doesn’t want to offend the type of companies it is similar to. As if the movie wants to show both sides of the story and how a loss of privacy can be unfortunate, but just imagine how much safety you get from handing over your freedom.
Cameras everywhere would end private moments, but imagine how those with cerebral palsy could feel who get to live vicariously through you. Yes, you’ll have a chip which can read your location no matter where you go, but think of how many less people, children even, that will get kidnapped. Lastly, imagine you lost touch with a friend, an ex, and you want to reconnect. Maybe they would hate everyone’s phone, devices, and cameras that are run by a multinational company having the ability to hunt them down, but then criminals, past and present, are within 20 minutes of being found.
All of these ideas about privacy vs. security are presented but are kept light enough to the point this film can’t seem political. With that, it leads you to wonder what the movie is really trying to say? That is if it was meant to say anything at all. Hence the decision to rate this negative for the film seems more worried about being commercially viable versus stirring the pot and maybe really saying something. Leaving it without purpose and without a real reason for you to see it.