While very, very far from perfect, The Circle is a provocative, timely thriller addressing connection and community in the age of social media.
Emma Watson is perfectly cast as Mae Holland, a young woman who joins the customer support team at The Circle, a Silicon Valley tech giant encompassing social media, software, digital products, and more. The company is led by Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), a black turtleneck-sporting charismatic figure who inspires his company, and the world, to empower themselves through his technology.
At its best, The Circle tackles these issues in a thoughtful and complicated way. The Circle develops mini cameras, in a proud call for transparency worldwide: exposing crimes of war, world hunger, as well as everyday sharing and providing insight into one’s personal life. The potential, and threat, of such technology is a fascinating topic on its own, and the film gives these a good shake.
The casting of Emma Watson is even more surprising, and impressive, in this regard. In real life, she is outspokenly political, as a proud feminist and UN Goodwill Ambassador, so it’s especially fun to see her take on such a twisted stance of over-sharing and the shedding of privacy and liberty.
About halfway through, the story does plunge into silly territory, with a disappointing performance by Ellar Coltrane (of Boyhood fame) and not nearly enough John Boyega. As things escalate, the situation is left pretty dire, and even the ending is murky and unclear.
My friend and I left the movie with drastically different ideas about what happened, and what Mae was up to all along. But as silly as things get, any film that provokes discussion and thought, about as toxic a topic as privacy in the digital age, must be working correctly on some wavelength. This is by no means one of the year’s best, but is a timely and (sometimes) intelligent commentary on our online community.