Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan
Director: James Ponsoldt
Running Time: 110 mins
The Circle is an American film about a woman who gets a job at the world’s most influential tech company, and although initially unnerved by their ambitions to overhaul the way that society functions, she soon rises to become an influential figure in a series of groundbreaking new innovations.
On the one hand, this film is a bit of a preachy and very heavy-handed comment on the state of the internet, social media and its impact on the modern world. On the other hand, it does have some thought-provoking (albeti preposterous) ideas, and with relatively slick visuals, decent performances and a good pace throughout, The Circle can be an entertaining and engaging film, but by no means as intelligent and groundbreaking as it thinks it is.
Let’s start with the film’s biggest problem, the fact that it’s just so blatant in its commentary. At a time when the internet has become an integral part of almost everybody’s daily lives, and is contributing to an increasingly one-brained mindset of its users, there’s a lot to look at and talk about, but it’s not as interesting when you try to shove it down your audience’s throats.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the ideas and concepts that the film brings up are perfect for sparking debate about how far the internet and internet corporations can feasibly go, but when they’re so preposterous, and you have characters spouting robotic and painfully obvious dialogue to further those ideas, it all feels a lot less like a hard-hitting and on-the-nose social commentary, and rather a somewhat desperate and poorly thought-out movie.
Another bizarre issue with this film is that it feels almost undecided as to what side of the fence it’s sitting on. Although it’s full of scathing attacks on the worst invasions of privacy through the internet, it at times feels like it’s giving the complete opposite message, shown mostly through Emma Watson, the main character, as she rises to prominence within The Circle.
Although likable at first for her independence, her character becomes increasingly frustrating as she is sucked into the fantasy land of making every possible thing on Earth connected by the internet. Now, it’s a story that could show how the internet can so easily influence people and stir up hysteria, but throughout the film, it appears as if it’s herself that’s making all these stupid decisions to become involved in ridiculous and dangerous projects that any sane person would immediately object to, making for a very frustrating watch throughout.
However, there is another side to the film that I really enjoyed. As preachy and confused as it appears at times, The Circle can actually be an entertaining watch. Even though you’ll be rolling your eyes at some of the ideas it presents, the fact that they’re so ludicrous does allow you to ponder what the worst case scenario of the ever closer-connected internet would be, and that kept me engaged in the film throughout.
What’s more is that it’s a very slick and modern-looking film, generally well shot and directed, whilst the performances (although the characters may not be so strong) are pretty good, with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in particular putting in a good effort to make their characters’ backgrounds and arcs as convincing as possible, even if the screenplay doesn’t allow that to really come off.
Overall, The Circle is a film full of flaws and mistakes. It’s a preposterous concept that feels very preachy whenever it wants to make a comment about its subject matter, but it still does provoke some interesting thought from time to time, whilst its performances and visuals go a long way to making it a relatively pleasant and often even entertaining watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.