“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
It’s almost cliche at this point to use the above quote, but it encapsulates the theme of Emma Watson’s latest film, The Circle. The film is directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and is based on a book of the same name. It also stars Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt (Agents of SHIELD, The Goldbergs), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy), and John Boyega (Attack of the Block, Star Wars The Force Awakens).
The story follows Mae Holland (Emma Watson) as she seizes the opportunity of a lifetime when she lands a job with the world’s most powerful technology and social media company. Encouraged by the company’s founder (Tom Hanks), Mae joins a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes soon starts to affect the lives and futures of her friends, family and that of humanity.
The characters are pretty lackluster, and unfortunately miss Watson never sells her role to the audience. I really didn’t care for the Beauty and the Beast remake that she starred in, so I am really starting to wonder whether she is a one trick pony. However, every other actor in the film immerse themselves in their roles. Tom Hanks is so darned charismatic in his role that it’s hard not to be on his side. Gillan and Oswalt are both great too, but sadly suffer from having underwritten characters. This is also one of (if not THE) last films of the late, great Bill Paxton, and he steals every scene he’s in.
The Circle probably fits into the category of ‘dystopian drama,’ but rather than being overt about it messaging like The Hunger Games, it deals with issues much closer to home. My jaw was figuratively on the floor for much of the runtime of the movie because I have heard so many of these ideas advocated by one person or group.
The main ideology explored in this film is RoboCop fascism, meaning that corporations rule the world and own the government in one form or another. However, unlike Detroit in RoboCop, this particular company (which is an amalgamation of Google, Apple, Amazon, etc.) advocates change that it sees as right rather than protecting its bottom line, and many of the ideas are progressive in nature.
Unfortunately the ending of the movie was a bit odd and I still don’t understand what they were trying to do. Perhaps I will pick up the book to better understand it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Circle is much better at executing its message than it is at actually being a piece of entertainment. It deals with many issues surrounding technology today, and it’s worth watching for that reason. Just don’t expect to fall in love with the characters or for the ending to make sense.