The Circle

Lost Privacy


28 April 2017| No Comments on The Circle     by Sean Chavel


Sci-fi parable that is less aggressively paranoid than it is a creepy, if satiric, “normalization” of what the social media world could become. I give The Circle an unapologetic endorsement especially in a few specific ways for dramatizing how we have allowed many social media devices to invade our everyday life – and this is despite a couple of oddball story twists and even literate gaps. Many viewers might also have a problem with Emma Watson’s very ambiguous take on her character, a corporate eager-beaver who easily goes to the dark side. Of course she questions the dark side, but not in tidy commercial movie explanations. I think it’s terrific work by Watson, who showed effervescence in this year’s “Beauty and the Beast” but can be a compellingly paradoxical presence like she dramatically proves here.

I also felt a similar kind of excitement for Tom Hanks in playing a Steve Jobs-like tech guru with a salt-and-pepper beard, who along with Patton Oswalt as the CEO, are the Circle Corporation’s chief officers. Seeing those two play influential tech and social influence maestros, with their fake magnanimous charisma, is a real treat. The Circle collects financial, medical, social and personal data of hundreds of millions of users – it’s all for everybody’s convenience! – and the corporation strives to be a sovereign power of all things audio/visual, surveillance, accountability, and impetus “soul searches” of everybody on the whole damn planet. This is all very progressive to a guy like Hanks’ Eamon Bailey, a plutocrat who thinks he is serving all of us with a better world by making the world “connect” with each other.

Watson’s character Mae Holland gets an entry level customer experience manager job at the Circle, which evokes the current campus culture that drives such existing tech companies like Google and Apple today. Early on, Mae gets a visit from a couple of co-workers who do an inquest on why she hasn’t filled out her personal profile and attended a healthy amount of Circle community events. It’s right here, thirty minutes in, that either you are going to reject “The Circle” or accept it as kind of a brilliant commentary of what is going on now in such team building exercises practiced by big companies. Mae is being questioned by two seriously whacked employees – or maybe they are just a super-enthusiastic duo who could be considered perfect models for what the company stands for. You decide.

There might be some arbitrary drama in “The Circle” as a whole, but when it came to that scene, I bought it. Mae rises in company visibility, certainly peaking when she decides to go full “transparency,” allowing the Circle and its hundreds of millions of users to watch her every move every day via micro-camera like it’s a nonstop YouTube series (of all the contemporary movies that use pop up user commentary bubbles to wit and troll, the ones here are the slyest I’ve seen). I’ve also always loved movies where the protagonist stands up in a board meeting to pitch a brilliant new corporate strategy, which Watson does here with aplomb. Mae is no cypher in the woods, she’s a go-getter.

I write all this knowing that the movie at large has been widely rejected by disappointed audiences and derided by many critics. Carps can be made that “The Circle” is too ridiculous, that the characters and plotting is fake and unrealistic. Director James Ponsoldt (“The End of the Tour”) and writer Dave Eggers (“A Hologram for the King”) treat everything with a deadpan “normal,” so excuse me if I wonder if viewers would accept the movie if it had one of those title cards that said, “Twenty Years Into the Future?” Would that have helped? I feel such a title card is needed for mass audiences to be convinced a premise’s outlandishness can be justified.

The ending doesn’t help matters. It promises to dig up dirt on a particular couple of characters and then doesn’t follow through. Hey, I felt disappointed. To be forthright: The ending is missing. And then oddly, for the epilogue, I felt the world was at a worst place then how it began at the beginning of the story. Hey, I find that was kind of bold. Bravo. There are no arbitrary chases or shoot-outs getting there. Hey, that’s also fine by me. For a companion piece that is an updated synthesis on the provocative themes of George Orwell’s “1984,” “The Circle” does more than a respectable job of doing that.

With John Boyega, Ellar Coltrane, Bill Paxton and Glenne Headley.

110 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “1984” (1984); “Her” (2013); “Men, Women & Children” (2014); “Nerve” (2016).

Circle Movie_2017_ Underrated

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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