- Movie Rating -

The Circle (2017)

| April 28, 2017

The Circle is the kind of movie that operates completely on theory while the audience watches in frustration as it completely omits logic or common sense.  Here is a techno-phobic piece of dreck that looks like high-tech thriller wrapped in social commentary, but by the time all of the pieces have been laid out, you realize that you’ve been witness to one of the dumbest, most stupifyingly dull-witted movies in many a moon.

We should be impressed.  In fact, the first hour of the movie is impressive.  It sets up the pieces of a kind of techno-cult thriller like The Social Network laced with The Firm, but large important sections of the story seem to be missing.  There is a much more competent story here that is trying to get out but it is cut down by mistakes in logic that make no sense and story threads that go nowhere.

Emma Watson stars as Mae, a humble girl from a humble home including two humble parents, one of whom is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (on a melancholy note, they’re played by Bill Paxton and Glenn Headley, both of whom have died this year).  Mae gets a change in her life when she is hired to work as Tech-Support for The Circle, a montobulous global media conglomerate not a million miles removed from Google.  These eggheads come up with tomorrow’s technological inventions that will make life easier and seem to produce them so fast that they must have elves working day and night.

Five minutes into the internship program should be enough to tell Mae that something is off.  Employees seem oddly robotic, and have every single moment of their lives is tracked and logged and they are encouraged to share their life experience with the rest of the world (personally, I’ve got one morning ritual that no one in the world wants in on).

Mae senses that something is up, but she’s slow to bring it to the surface and too dim to imagine the possibility of simply quitting the company.  Her first clue should have been a company-wide meeting hosted by the CEO Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) who introduces the company’s latest innovation: a tiny camera called SeaChange that can monitor anyone in the world at any time 24/7.  This camera is apparently so impressive that it can track a criminal in less than 20 minutes, provided of course that there are people nearby with cameras in hand (the movie leaves that part out).  Also, Bailey happily informs us that we can keep an eye on the terrorists (The fact that the terrorists could also be watching us is also left out).

The meat of the story really gets cooking when Mae is caught trying to have some alone time while kayaking at night.  A SeaChange camera that just happens to be attached to a buoy catches her sneaking out.  Asked to explain her actions at another company-wide meeting she inexplicably gives in to the information that being caught was the best thing for her.  So, she agrees to go transparent – being wired with the SeaChange cameras day and night so that the global audience can see and hear her every move all day and all night.  There is a slight suggestion that the cameras might black out when she goes to the bathroom but in the next scene she is seen brushing her teeth in the bathroom.  Do the cameras go off for showering?  Feminine hygiene?  Masturbation?  The filmmakers here hope that you won’t ask these questions.  Actually they hope you won’t ask a lot of questions.

The biggest puzzlers for me are the comments that Mae gets from users around the world.  They pop up on the screen in text all around her – but they are the nicest comments you’ve ever seen.  This is a global broadcast, so 75% of the comments should be snarky and nasty and contain at least one four-letter word.  In the entire world, Mae isn’t victim to even one troll when she catches her parents having sex?

The last scene in the movie is mystifying.  Having built up a plot based around pulling oneself off the grid, the movie then ends on a note suggesting that Mae is now embracing the very thing she was trying to overthrow.  Is the movie in favor of 24/7 surveillance or not?  What is being suggested here?  Is this commentary?  Is it farce?  I’m going to just pull the plug on this and go about my day.  Uhg!

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2017) View IMDB Filed in: Thriller