12 – 110mins – 2017
In light of a paltry US box office haul and surfeit negative reviews, this speculative techo-thriller was ignobly dumped onto UK Netflix on Sunday, little over two months after it crashed out of Stateside cinemas. It’s a shame, really, as The Circle’s tackling of human rights issues in our ever-more digitized, online age is resonantly timely, while the stellar cast (including John The Force Awakens Boyega and recently departed Bill Paxton) are all exuberant.
“The chaos of the world made easy.”
Water company temp Mae Holland (Emma Beauty and the Beast Watson) lands a job in customer maintenance at the titular company, the world’s most influential internet corporation, co-founded by irrepressible Eamon Bailey (Tom Inferno Hanks). But as this unassuming “guppy” learns the ropes and starts to rise the rungs of The Circle’s ladder, Mae unwittingly becomes a beta-tester for their newest piece of innovative tech. SeeChange records and analyses her every move to thousands of social media followers, making her an instant phenomenon. But is this unified service revolutionary, or infringing humanity’s free will?
“Privacy was a temporary thing.”
With a screenplay co-written by director James Ponsoldt and author Dave Eggers (who penned the novel from which this is adapted), The Circle’s flaw lies in its on-the-nose execution, which never so much as gently hints at a narrative development or tonal change as pummels you over the head with it. Take Mae’s ambitious best friend, Annie (Karen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Gillan). Overburdened with work and jealous of Mae’s overnight fame, Annie morphs from fresh-faced and bubbly to withdrawn and haggard. In the space of one scene.
Subtly is also not on show when Mae begins her new assignment. There is an immediate extreme escalation from the speculative think-piece of the film’s opening half to a full-on Truman Show-esque satire. In its “fully transparent” delivery The Circle certainly practises what it preaches, but it diminishes the impact of the company’s undoing when it’s motives are so obviously insidious and doomed to be challenged from the outset.
CR@B’s Claw Score: