The Circle (2017): A Frustratingly Annoying Film
Before we hit the wave of summer movies about to be released, studios are placing some smaller, more intimate movies in theaters. This past week brought us a movie that fits that criteria: The Circle! Filled with a great cast, The Circle looked primed to become a sleeper hit. But was the film actually any good? The following The Circle review will be spoiler free.
The Circle is directed by James Ponsoldt and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, and many, many others. We follow Mae (Watson) who has just began her job at The Circle, a company that is a cross between Google, Facebook, and Apple. The Circle’s reach is forever growing, allowing it to tackle new issues such as human rights and inventive ways of data collection to make a better world possible. However, once The Circle (led by Tom Hanks as Eamon Bailey) begins to roll out its new projects, the line between the invasion of privacy and societal benefits begins to blur with Mae stuck in the middle of it.
Adapted from the popular novel of the same name, The Circle was a movie that I was quietly looking forward to. The story’s themes could not be more timely in a world where more people are learning that they are being spied on or that their data is being stored for the benefit of numerous companies around this ever-shrinking world. A film that brings these ideas into question could go along way with audiences everywhere.
Plus, every time you include Tom Hanks (A.K.A Hollywood’s father) in a movie, you can be sure that I’ll be at least mildly intrigued. Hanks has continued to dazzle all of us with charming performances that give us all a smile. Although his last few movies have been lackluster, Hanks has always been a standout.
What I Liked
The strengths that will be mentioned in this The Circle review predominantly fall in line with the world that is created.
Once Mae steps foot on The Circle’s campus, you immediately are put into a technological world full of fascinating possibilities. The first thirty or so minutes of this film are very intriguing, which is what any movie with such a premise should strive to be. I rather enjoyed how Hanks’ character was more or less the Steve Jobs of this universe, spouting idealistic possibilities of a better world with The Circle at the center of it all. Many of the movie’s ideas are explored in Apple-like product introductions which capture the awe and fascination that would be prevalent in such a situation.
As you can imagine, Tom Hanks thrives as Eamon Bailey, maintaining a level of charisma while not becoming overpowering. You can’t help but like his character (for better or for worse). What issues that the movie has (and there’s a lot of them), you cannot blame Hanks’ performance whatsoever.
What I Didn’t Like
Unfortunately, that’s where the positives in this The Circle review end. Overall, this movie is a mess.
Although Tom Hanks is so charming, the writing of his character is a serious detriment to the movie. His character is billed as the main villain of The Circle. However, nothing that he does could be considered evil or treacherous. The movie actually goes out of its way to humanize Hanks’ character with a thoughtful reason for attempting to get rid of secrets and allow for experiences to be shared much easier. In many cases throughout the movie, he even seems correct in what he’s attempting to accomplish. Every bit of his character, until an oddly out of place remark at the end of the film, is fleshed out with sincerity that it makes The Circle as a whole feel as if there is no conflict to follow.
Moreover, Emma Watson’s character may have even worse motivations. After a conversation with John Boyega’s character that sniffs at the twisted underbelly of The Circle and how it may have villainous plans, you would think that Watson’s character would begin to grow paranoid of The Circle and start to look over her shoulder, right? Wrong. Watson’s character does the complete opposite. Instead, she begins to love The Circle and buy in completely, making the entire setup of the movie absolutely pointless.
What I Didn’t Like…Continued
Not only are character motivations absolutely dreadful, but the actors involved (besides Hanks) do nothing to improve the material.
Emma Watson is merely fine in the lead. There’s nothing about her performance that will wow you or suck you into the movie. It’s actually pretty wooden. At certain points, you can hear her lose her American accent and pronounce some words in her native tongue. Just about any actress could have played this role. There’s nothing about her character that made it necessary for her to be the lead. In a movie that requires the character to be captivating for the story to work, this may be considered one of the worst flaws that this The Circle review may cover.
For those excited to see John Boyega in a post-Star Wars role, it be wise to temper your expectations. He’s more or less in two scenes total. It’s a complete under-use of great talent.
There’s one relationship in particular that has a large importance to the plot once it finally kicks in with ten minutes left in the film. However, this relationship was cultivated so clumsily and lazily acted by Ellar Coltrane (from Boyhood) that it actually detracts from the movie. Whatever minuscule amount of promise that The Circle had was lost with this relationship.
As a whole, The Circle starts with some promise but then wastes it completely on terrible character motivations that amount to practically zero conflict. It gets a D. I can’t in good conscience recommend this movie to anyone. If you liked the book, you’ll probably be annoyed by the movie. If you consider yourself a movie buff, then you’ll be annoyed by The Circle’s story construction. Don’t waste your money. Save it for the massive slate of summer movies about to be released!
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