Film - The Circle

Knowing is good as Kraig Taylor-Bryant gives his thoughts on the film The Circle...

I first watched The Circle because I was intrigued by the interesting choice in cast and the possible dynamic between so many famous actors was what really sparked my curiosity. Emma Watson was one of the main cast members. Of course I first knew her from watching Harry Potter and I wanted to see how good of an actor she was at a film that wasn’t Beauty and the Beast. Another name that caught my eye was John Boyega who, of course, played Finn in Star Wars and I honestly haven’t seen him in anything else, so I thought it would be enjoyable to see how actors from different sides of the fantasy genre combined in one thriller.

So here is a brief overview of the plot of this thriller thanks to IMDb:

A woman lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called The Circle, only to uncover an agenda that will affect the lives of all of humanity.

That is a very brief description of a very in-depth story with an oddly deep meaning. The film focuses on this woman, Mae, played by Emma Watson, who gets a job she had been dreaming of but, as many thrillers go, all does not appear to be what it once seemed. Tom Hanks, as Eamon Bailey, does an incredible job of bringing to life a character that seems like he is trying to do good for the world but is, in fact, invading the world's privacy through his new projects that mean that nobody is safe from the internet and everybody committing any crime, can be found. We all first see this concept as something positive and wonderful but we soon come to know that secrets, in some circumstances, can be a good thing. Emma Watson’s character Mae realises this fairly quickly when she decides to become “transparent” along with her family, meaning every member of the Circle can see almost every aspect of her and her family’s life, including when she shockingly sees on her television that her parents are having sex. Which, of course, gives the audience an obvious hint that knowing everything is really not as good as we envisioned.

There are also earlier hints at this, including the fact that, at the beginning, every member of The Circle seems so fully invested in every aspect of the company, almost as if they had been brainwashed which, again, keeps the audience curious and willing to see the story through.  The fact that The Circle seems like a cult makes us feel as if we are seeing things that Mae is refusing to see because she doesn’t want to. It's almost as if the audience is Mae's consciousness that she is choosing to ignore, even after she makes friends with the original founder, Ty (John Boyega), and realises that he, in fact, is not the criminal that she had originally heard of him to be, as he tells her that this is not what The Circle is meant to be, she still refuses to believe the truth.

One of my favourite aspects of this film is when Mae's friend Annie (played by Karen Gillan,) who landed her the job in the first place, begins to fall apart as she too, in addition to Ty, begins to see what The Circle is becoming and she then doesn't want to be a part of any of it after Mae suggests that The Circle should become mandatory to everyone.  It's at this point, we see as an audience that Mae herself is beginning her own process of being brainwashed by the ideas of The Circle as well as suggesting her own.

It is not until one of her other friends, Mercer; played by Ellar Coltrane (who we are introduced to at the start of the film) dies, that she really sees The Circle for what it is and, instead of abandoning it like her friend Annie does, she chooses to try and change it. I suppose that this kind of teaches that people can be guided back to do the right thing when they are brainwashed to believe something that is in fact evil or just horrible. In this case that would be constantly abusing someone because of a light that looked like it was made of real deer antlers. This kind of sets a moral to not cyber bully in a sense, as it was because of this that Mercer went to live in a secluded place and wanted to be left alone, as he knew people would be cruel to him for it and they went out of their way to find him anyway through their new system.  It also in a way gives us a warning for the future that we should be careful not to develop our technology too much that we lose sight of what people have a right to keep private, as those within The Circle are taught, “secrets are lies” when in fact, they aren’t, they are just truths that haven’t been told for a good reason.

We also realise, through Mae, that it is through these kinds of organisation that you can lose sight of what’s important regarding family and friends and this would also set the moral that we should not lose touch with our family even if we are landed a dream job or are fixed on a new technological advance.

In terms of the acting, The Circle could definitely have used a bit of work, as they did kind of take a risk by using so many young actors that have just entered the industry or have not been in as much as other actors that could have been in the film. Of course a lot of the actors are famous for other things but this does not necessarily mean they know how to play multiple characters well. I say this simply because I really didn’t like Emma Watson in this film, as her American accent did not seem that real to me and in fact, at some points was on the edge of unbearable. 

However, it's more the story that matters than it is the acting and the plot, as far as I saw, did not really have any flaws. And don’t get me wrong, I thought the concept of the characters themselves was excellent. I definitely thought Ty was an interesting character, I just wish they developed him a bit further and he had more scenes in the film.  They would have had the time to fit him in as the film was only an hour and forty minutes long so they could have given him an extra couple scenes of him trying to encourage Mae to leave The Circle and her lashing out and exposing him to The Circle or something, which would have been a very tense event that I think would be prefect for the story. Of course I am also fine with nothing dark happening to him in general, as long as he was just in it more, so that I could understand how he was central to the plot.

Overall I think it's the tension makes this film work as a thriller, despite the lack of action which really, I thought, was not as important. It's clear that action was not the director's focus and therefore, when there was action, the audience would have also been more shocked. The “thrill” aspect of the film, such as the creepy effect of The Circle on its users, was definitely enough to keep me curious leading up to the action. However, it wasn't just the tension that was important, as there were definitely some other good parts to this film too, such as the messages it sends across to people about people being curious about prying into other people’s private lives. And that’s exactly why I would recommend this film as one for everyone to watch at least once.

I may even read the novel now as I thought the film was missing something that I think the book may explain to me better.

Follow Kraig on Twitter @KraigandhisMac

Images - IMDb

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