This week I went to review The Circle, a suspenseful movie whose premise is an exploration of the whole ‘Privacy versus Security’ debate. I was not looking forward to this film; I thought it would be dry and boring but instead I found it terrifying. The Circle got me where I lived. It tapped directly into my fears of being watched and judged and and kept that up for almost two hours. I haven’t squirmed that much since ‘The Witch’. So when I saw it got 5.7 out of 10 on IMDB and 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, I was shocked. What happened? Then I figured it out….
The Circle does one thing extremely well. It characterises the omnipresent, insidious and inexorable change social media (and by extension the companies that provide it) into our lives. People don’t like being watched all the time, especially if it’s not really voluntary (even if it technically is). And, especially early on in the film, the arguments it makes for sharing more are well articulated and compelling, though still creepy. The problem is that it got a little less believable as time went on. I know you have to exaggerate to get your point across but by the end it was pretty heavy handed. Still, I’m really into the issue of Privacy, so I liked The Circle as a piece of social commentary.
As a piece of fiction, though, The Circle seemed a bit weak in places. Sure, the dialogue was good, and there was a smooth setup where we meet the characters. The plot gracefully transitioned into an eerie scenario where The Circle just gained more and more control and all the other characters seemed powerless to stop it. The problem is that all the threats were implied, very few bad things actually happened. Not much real conflict. The villains were untouchable until the last few minutes. The movie ended with the cinematic equivalent of “….and then they were hit by a bus.” I’m all for a slow suspenseful set-up, but there has to be an equally powerful pay-off, otherwise it’s like watching someone set up dominoes and then knocking them down in fast-forward.
I loved the casting/acting. I can’t be overstated how charismatic Emma Watson is. She’s got, like, Matt Damon-levels of Charisma. They should do a movie together, like trying to escape an enchanted enchanted castle on Mars or something. (Hollywood, you can have that idea for free). John Boyega is hella sexy, I’d forgotten how good he was. I would have liked to see more of him in this film. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt were perfect as soulless executives. It was also a treat seeing the very talented Karen Gillan (POND!).
So is The Circle worth watching? I don’t know. If you’re fascinated by the aforementioned Privacy/Security debate, you’ll find this interesting as I did. If not, there are probably better ways to kill a couple hours. I won’t be watching this again, mostly because it made me anxious. That said, The Circle might still be an important film: it’s one of the issues of our time. People can point to The Circle as a crucial influence of whatever better film gets made that does the same thing only better.