The Circle (2017)

  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: James Ponsoldt
  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Karen Gillan, John Boyega


When Mae is hired to work for the world’s largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company’s founder, Eamon Bailey, to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family and that of humanity.


  • Tom Hanks is one of the world’s biggest movie stars. When his name is attached to a project, it’s an event. The box office numbers will be fairly decent and a certain amount of buzz will follow. In The Circle (my latest review), the buzz might have already came and went.

    Hanks takes on a supporting role in “Circle”. That’s right, a supporting role. He fades in and out of the film and you wonder why he actually agreed to be in it. Tom might have thought Circle’s script looked like Oscar gold on paper. Or better yet, he might have been doing director James Ponsoldt a solemn service. Either way, his appearance although aberrant, is not a career killer for him. Tom’s career is already assured.

    The Circle, with its overextended foothold on the aspects of social media, is fascinating. I mean, it would have been really fascinating had it come out over thirty years ago. Now, with its story being just intriguing enough, it also feels like it contains a little too much hooey for my taste. “Circle” although inferior, makes The Truman Show seem like Romper Room in comparison. Furthermore, it makes better, paranoid thrillers like Snowden appear more akin to a Sunday stroll. The Circle clocking in at just under two hours, is the ultimate invasion of privacy flick. I was reminded of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” with every bleeding second.

    Containing a sterile look, featuring annoyingly inept side characters, and harboring an unclear ending (the protagonist’s motivations are either revenge or plain-old betterment), “Circle” chronicles one Mae Holland (played with straight faced discipline by Emma Watson). Mae looking to better her human potential, takes a job at an Internet corporation called The Circle. She quickly moves up the corporate ladder, becoming The Circle’s forgone messiah. Holland eventually gets in over her head, blurring the company lines of surveillance, seclusion, and personal freedom. Tom Hanks plays Eamon Bailey, the head and co- founder of The Circle. In truth, Hanks and Watson give performances that rise above the otherwise, overly serious material. Also, the late Bill Paxton does decent work as Vinnie Holland, Mae’s heavily disabled father.

    In conclusion, The Circle isn’t an awful movie but it doesn’t come close to being of Hanksian proportions. It paints a bleak rendering of the future complete with marble-sized cameras, plenty of flying drones, and visibly overused text messages. You’ll be absorbed by its level of paranoia, its eye in the sky platitudes. At the same time, you’ll be turned off by “Circle’s” lack of warmth and secret society buffoonery. Call it a larger version of cinematic coterie. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

    Rating: 2.5 out of 4 Stars

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  • A flat and middling adaptation of Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle is meant to be a 1984 for the digital age yet it works neither as cautionary tale nor corporate thriller. It would be unfair to say that its premise won’t provoke viewers into (re)assessing the rights they willingly relinquish in order to live their lives on the grid.

    Emma Watson stars as Mae Holland, a twentysomething stuck in an uninteresting job and still living at home with her parents (Bill Paxton and Glenne Headley), both of whom wish she would think of her longtime pal Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) as something more than a platonic friend. With the help of her friend Annie (Karen Gillan), Mae manages to land the position of a Customer Experience Manager at The Circle, a powerful tech company whose compound and work culture is not unlike Apple and Facebook, a workplace designed as a community whose grounds one never really has to leave.

    Certainly its head and co-founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) cuts a Jobsian figure, charming his employees with visions of an even better future via the company’s latest innovation, SeeChange, a coin-sized portable camera that allows not only for real-time video but data analysis as well. It’s a product that builds on its primary creation TruYou, which is a single-identity, one-password solution for all online activities. With SeeChange, transparency can ensure accountability. “Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better,” Eamon proclaims to the enthusiastic applause of his audience.

    “Sharing is caring” is one of the company’s mantras and that connectivity is key in climbing this particular corporate ladder. Mae is called out for not being connected enough – her social media presence is part and parcel of the job as is engaging with The Circle’s community and, though of course coming into work over the weekend isn’t mandatory, it may as well be for her absence is noted. After running into some trouble, Mae decides to embrace The Circle’s ethos of going transparent and agrees to wear the SeeChange all day, allowing everyone in the world to see everything she does. Her decision has consequences – a decrease in communication with her parents, who value their privacy, and something far more irreparable with Mercer.

    If only The Circle was as compelling as it believes itself to be. Part of the issue is that writer-director James Ponsoldt takes too long in getting to the main action – this is a film where foreplay should be short and sweet – and once it does get there, the premise reads as ridiculous rather than chilling. Watson seems the right fit for the part yet, as with most of her adult roles, she’s not quite there. Gillan makes more of an impression as the overworked Annie as do Headley and especially Paxton, whose character is dealing with multiple sclerosis. Others such as Patton Oswalt and John Boyega as the other two key figures at The Circle may as well have been cut out, so unnecessary are they to the overall grand scheme of things. Hanks, on the other hand, brings a devilish delight to Eamon. It’s not the type of character he usually gets to play, but he ably shows how such figures can make their warped and extreme beliefs palatable to the masses.

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