The Circle (2017) Review
The Circle is directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now, Smashed) and stars Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter), Tom Hanks (Toy Story, Bridge of Spies), John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Attack the Block) and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who). "A woman lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to uncover an agenda that will affect the lives of all of humanity". After a feeble financial performance in the US, The Circle went straight to Netflix in the UK - is this genuinely a film that is not worth paying for?
For a film that has the tagline 'Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better', you would think that it would have a really detailed and well explained narrative not choppy editing that makes the whole plot feel rather disjointed. I didn't detest The Circle - it was watchable and I think that was mainly due to ideas and themes that are thought-provoking- on paper. Unfortunately, the film does not execute those ideas in a clear or interesting way. The Circle is incredibly flawed and I definitely think it was the right move for this to go straight-to Netflix as nobody should go out of their way to pay to see this shambles.
The writing is certainly the most important factor when it comes to films like The Circle that present such high concept and fascinating ideas. Sadly, The Circle is poorly written by James Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers - they seem to skip any extra details that help to glue a plot together and instead create a plot that is the bare minimum - details are brief, sudden and there isn't really a flow. The Circle is based on a book written by Dave Eggers and either the book is incredibly hard to translate to another media form or Eggers and Ponsoldt had extremely conflicting visions which explains why The Circle is inconsistent and jumbled. I actually think that The Circle is a fitting title for this flick as our protagonist, Mae (Emma Watson), circles back to where she began - after technology has a large impact on her friend, Mercer's death, she returns to going transparent and honestly, it doesn't really make sense how she came to that decision. I actually expected Mae to rebel against The Circle after it caused such a horrific accident not for her to continue to be involved in the company.
Undeniably, The Circle has a good cast filled with potential but just like Mae's biggest fear - the script and director fails to make the most of this cast and therefore there is lots of unfulfilled potential. I actually thought it was funny how many of this cast are part of the Disney club - Emma Watson represents live action fairytales (Beauty and the Beast), Tom Hanks represents Pixar (Toy Story), John Boyega represents Star Wars (The Force Awakens) and Karen Gillan represents Marvel (Guardians of the Galaxy). Let's begin with Emma Watson who is coming hot off of the biggest film of the year yet but here, she fails to give a memorable performance. I thought Watson's line delivery was very jolted and patchy. I don't know if lines were messed around with in the editing suite but most of her scenes lacked a flow and I wasn't convinced by her performance. Don't even get me started on her American accent which was very off and unconvincing. Especially in the first half, Watson seemed lost and I think someone else could have done something more compelling with this admittedly weak script. However, Watson's performance picked up during the second half where she became much more enthusiastic and energetic. The same cannot be said for Tom Hanks - The Circle is possibly the most forgettable Tom Hanks film in his entire career. Not only is his role very small, when he is on-screen, he has nothing engaging to work with and honestly, anybody could have been cast. Why would you hire Tom Hanks and not utilise him? John Boyega also has a very small role and his performance is rather bland. Luckily for Boyega, the marketing hasn't surrounded him so won't be associated with the stink of The Circle (both critically and financially). Finally, Karen Gillan - her energy was on a different level to the rest of the cast in the first half of the film; she felt out of place. I didn't really get the same emotion from Gillan's face as I did from what she was speaking - I wasn't completely convinced by her and found her quite irritating. Gillan's character also has an unexplained sudden change and then her mood is once again the complete opposite to the rest of the cast in the second act.
I don't have great things to say about The Circle but there's nothing about it that I thought was absolutely awful. If The Circle didn't present such interesting and compelling ideas, the score would be much much lower. It's hard to distinguish who to give credit to for those ideas - Eggers is the author but he also worked on the screenplay. The Circle plays like a weak Black Mirror episode - it presents a cool, futuristic idea but then tears it down by showing the likely dangers of said idea. However, as I have previously mentioned - the sophisticated and logical script is what is missing. Why make a feature-length picture and skip out important moments. I think the film could have done more to explore the characters of Mercer and Annie. They both clearly have problems going on psychologically that are hinted at and suggested but never actually explained or made clear - key character arcs like this should be clear and coherent - why does Annie suddenly go from an energetic and bubbly character to a depressed and sombre one?
The Circle is worth the watch if you want to be presented with some ideas that are thought-provoking and intriguing...on paper. The Circle doesn't put the work in with the script or narrative for the plot to actually glue together and have a nice flow. There is so much unfulfilled potential among the cast - from Belle to Mae, Sully to Bailey, Nebula to Annie and Finn to Ty; it just doesn't make sense how a talented cast can be so underused and actually very weak. The writing is what is to blame for The Circle's failure - it treats a pretty complex idea as something that's very simplistic and turns into a very one dimensional plot. PSA, Okja premiered the same week on Netflix as The Circle - please watch Okja, The Circle really isn't worth your time.