The Circle: Knowing how to make heads spin
The Circle is a 2017 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. The film stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega and is directed by James Ponsoldt. Bill Paxton also stars in what would be his final film role (may he rest in peace).
One thing you should know about me is that Tom Hanks is my favorite actor. I think he is one of the finest actors of his time, and I have at least partially enjoyed just about everything that I have seen in him. However, he seems to have developed a bad habit of starring in thriller-based film adaptations of books that some people might not be able to fully accept. Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code trilogy does not sit well for a lot of people, and the film adaptations don't do them any justice. Dave Eggers' The Circle takes a more sci-fi approach by tackling ideas of privacy and the potential dangers of an ever-growing network of technology. Sounds more thought-provoking than controversial. Tom Hanks looks to be in a good spot. Plus, Emma Watson, fresh off the highly successful Beauty and the Beast, is coming along for the ride. This has just got to work, right?
The story centers on a young woman named Mae Holland (Emma Watson) who is working a dead-end job answering the phone and talking to angry customers. Her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) is able to land her a job at the Internet techno corporation known as The Circle. Mae is able to rise up through the ranks to eventually become one of The Circle's most popular figures. As Mae is riding on The Circle's cloud nine, she begins to realize that the choices she makes will affect not only her own community, but people all over the world as well.
The Circle is an example of a movie that I went into hoping to be amazed by, but came out from with a ringing sense of disappointment. The hardy themes of privacy invasion and the power of technology in today's society really lay the foundation for a potentially stupendous film. That's because we now live in a time where people can't seem to go at least 30 minutes without checking the Internet or browsing something on their phones. What disappointed me the most about The Circle was how it goes around and around with its great ideas, but never proceeds to stop and tell us how it all ties together. Everything keeps spinning and spinning until it all comes to a crashing halt in a messy finale.
- Tom Hanks delivers the best performance in the film, combining humorous remarks with convincing speeches. It's a sign to me that Hanks was giving this film his best shot, probably in hopes of making people forget the tragedies of his previous book-to-film installment, Inferno. I guess I am a little biased, because Tom Hanks just seems to find a way to win me over no matter what kind of role he is playing. The Circle does give us a very rare example of Tom Hanks being placed in a more villainous position, and The Circle could have enhanced its advertising more by emphasizing Hanks being in such a position.
- I found myself most invested in the movie when it was making direct attacks on the effects of technology being everywhere. Mae is visited one day by her friend, Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), and he informs her of how frustrated that he is about how their friendship has waned. He also chastises Mae for how she has allowed herself to be fully exploited by technology, further saying that she does not need to have advanced technology around her so much. The two have their conversation while being watched and recorded by several bystanders. To be fair, the movie never attempts to be subtle with its attacks on technology, but given the fact that people seem so oblivious to things such as constantly staring at their phones, they might only get the message if you throw it right in their faces.
- The Circle has great ideas, but it does not fully capitalize on these ideas and their terrific potential. One moment the movie is talking about the wonders of networking and communication. The next moment it is discussing privacy and how secrets are holding humanity back from its fullest potential. Aside from this inconsistency, The Circle also never tries to bring everything together so that we can better understand and appreciate the technological world that it has built, and what it might mean for us in the near future. It leaves its ideas scattered all over the place, picking and choosing which ones to use with no rhyme or reason.
- The ending is heavily unsatisfying. Whatever climax that the movie was building up to crashes and burns in the final minutes right before the end credits roll. I left the theater still confused about what exactly the ending was supposed to mean in terms of how everyone either benefits or suffers from non-stop technology and a lack of true privacy. No matter how much I processed it, my brain refused to fully accept the ending.
The Circle rides along smoothly at times, but it quickly deflates like a flat tire when it becomes clear that it has no idea how to properly structure and communicate its worthwhile ideas. Tom Hanks delivers a fine performance himself, but Emma Watson fails to fully support him, delivering a middling performance that really did not have me buying into Mae Holland as a character worthy enough to rise the corporate ladder and go from a nobody to a borderline celebrity in no time. It's one of my least favorite kind of movies; you see a lot of shiny potential on the table, but once you watch the film, it is clear that full-on execution is sorely lacking. The Circle says knowing is good, but it's obvious that James Ponsoldt and his team did not fully know what they were dealing with, which is bad. Advice for Tom Hanks; stay away from book-to-film adaptations for a while.
Recommend? No, unless you're a big fan of Emma Watson and/or Tom Hanks.
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