“Don’t be evil.” That makes for a pretty good motto. Or at least Google thought so when they selected it. And it sounds good. Now, what if a company like that started to decide what good and evil were for society? What if you wrapped up the enthusiastic leadership of Apple with the information reach of Google and the social media pervasiveness of Facebook? Turn that into the essential life app known as The Circle.
The Film: 1.5/5
Privacy is a bad thing. When we have privacy we do bad. That is the prevalent belief that leads the events of The Circle. But that takes a few minutes to get there. We start with Emma Watson as a young new employee at the company behind The Circle. She gets her job with this hot and desirable employer as tech support for customers who are having trouble using their website and app. At first, everything is a little overwhelming as the technology is everywhere and the job is fully consuming. People live on campus and party on the weekends. Everybody forms a little community of their own within just the company. The company becomes their new norm and the extent of their life. They live and breath Circle.
At first, Emma is a bit resistant to turn her whole life over to the events on campus. However, after review personnel comes down on her for lack of engagement, she begins making changes to feel secure in her position. She begins living the Circle life a little at a time. And then one night, she steals a kayak to get some personal headspace but is capsized by the water. One of the company’s new micro cameras catches her in danger and authorities are alerted to rescue her.
Following her rescue, Emma along with the founder and face of the company Eamonn, played by Tom Hanks, share a compelling company conversation. In this conversation, Emma tells Eamonn about how secrets lead us to misbehave. She then concludes that “secrets cause evil.” And she proclaims that we should rid ourselves of privacy so that everyone knows what we are doing all the time. We will always be compelled to be on our best behavior. We will want to think about if anything we are doing is wrong and as such, refrain from such behavior. Additionally, we receive the benefit that people will see if we need assistance or rescue. As an evolution of this philosophy, Emma starts live streaming her life. She has cameras put throughout her company apartment and wears a camera everywhere, privacy only for a few minutes at a time to go to the restroom.
As she reaps the rewards of this experiment and the newfound popularity from it, she dives in more fully to the idea of The Circle being the way of doing life. She moves up in the company on influence and starts proposing ideas such as compulsory accounts and voting on The Circle for every citizen. The biggest idea she proposes and helps develop is one that would eliminate all privacy in the name of good and justice. But where do go from here when we turn control over to the rule of a company and the mob mentality of viewers?
Predictably, this becomes a commentary on power. A commentary on what happens when we consolidate too much power in one place. And what happens when we think we can trust those in power when we shouldn’t? Who should we trust implicitly? These are the underlying themes running beneath the movie. And I can only hope it was told more deftly in the book because it is truly heavy-handed in the movie. This is all a little disappointing really.
Both Tom Hanks and Emma Watson seem very enthusiastic about this work in their supplemental interviews, but I wish it resulted out a better product. They both do a fine job on their end though. Nothing remarkable, but nothing truly lacking. Jon Boyega was perhaps the most interesting of the notable actors. He pops up sparingly as the technological genius behind some of The Circle’s biggest innovations. He prefers to hang out in the background away from the pomp and circumstance of PR while holding reservations towards the direction of the company and technology. Unfortunately, he just has too little screen time to improve the film enough.
What really seems to be lacking is the script and direction. This includes one of the last roles by Bill Paxton and it seems such a waste. He does well in his role as Emma’s disabled father in what is very limited screen time. Helen Hunt as his wife is also pleasant when she is on screen. I just wish we had more interesting plot lines with them in it. Really they are just a side note along the thin top-level plot.
I will give credit that the direction was thinking outside the box in presenting all of the information from the technological interfaces on the websites and apps used by Emma. I didn’t care for it, but I think it does actually do a good job of conveying the information and interactions involved in an area that can be hard to put to film. All in all, everything is just very plain and devoid of any engaging style. The film just tells a predictable story in a predictable way without anything new being brought to the table.
Tech Details: 4/5
So yeah, The Circle looks and sounds pretty good. The image is quite shiny and clean throughout. Dark scenes present pleasingly deep and clear blacks. The colors look fantastic. The silly little information boxes that are thrown on the screen all film look great in this presentation. Likewise, the audio track sounds great. There aren’t really a lot of opportunities for it to show any muscle as this is much more of a dialog driven flick. But it always keeps the dialog clear and even throughout the flick.
Special Features and Packaging: 2.5/5
No More Secrets: Completing The Circle: Set of four featurettes with behind the scenes on the production of the film. This is where everyone associated with the film talks about how great the story is and how much they believe in the film.
The Future Won’t Wait: Design and Technology: This featurette covers a lot of the graphics shown during the film that represent what is happening on computers and phones.
A True Original: Remembering Bill Paxton: A tribute to the late Bill Paxton. Tom Hanks carries this with his discussion of working with Paxton previously.
The Circle Overall: 2/5
Technical details notwithstanding, I don’t think there is any way I can recommend The Circle. On the one hand, it does look and sound good. The supplements are unimpressive on the other hand. But there is nothing to really care about behind this presentation. Really the story is nothing new and it isn’t presented in a new way. Go watch the same sort of story in a movie that does it better. I’m not even saying that this is a bad flick. It just doesn’t present anything interesting. Only watch if you feel the need to complete one of the actor’s filmography. Which is something I don’t recommend doing to yourself. Pass.
However, if you want to take the plunge you can find the Blu-ray on Amazon.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.