Review: The Circle (2017) — A scary future of social media advancement

emma watson the circle still

The Circle

Movie review

Based on co-screenwriter Dave Egger’s book, The Circle is about an ordinary girl named Mae Holland (Emma Watson) who struggles to make ends meet and the treatment for her father’s (Bill Paxton) illness require money she can’t afford. She manages to get a job the titular internet corporation and inspired by its co-founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), she works her way up the ladder from customer relations before she finds herself in the middle of groundbreaking social video technology that could change humanity for better or worse.

The premise is almost like a serious version of the current TV comedy series Silicon Valley and the spiritual prequel of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002). Social media technology has advanced one step further to a point where the meaning of privacy, freewill and democracy is vastly blurred. A world where people are encouraged to be completely “transparent” to the public and share everything they do in their life to the public through live streaming (a bit like Truman Show) using a tiny video camera that can see, find and analyse everything in the matter of minutes. And the scary thing is that this world and technology in the film are not that far away from where we are today.

tom hanks Patton Oswalt the circle still

Egger’s material is very interesting, terrifying and relatable, and all it needs a director to tell the story well through film. Unfortunately James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour, The Spectacular Now, Smashed), the film’s director and co-screenwriter who had a great track record, failed to deliver. The film feels patchy, rushed and utterly unengaging — like a summarised, flip-through of the book. It has a star-studded main cast but the characters are all either poorly developed or totally neglected as their motivations are unclear and their progression is highly disconnected. And frankly, I can’t even label the film as a thriller. The Google/Facebook-like company is too obviously evil from the get-go and everything from there is pretty much predictable. If the film is supposed to be this dark, paranoia-driven thriller where there’s a disturbing sense that everyone is watching you all the time, I didn’t feel it enough.

Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, Harry Porter films), as the film’s protagonist, gives her most unconvincing and inconsistent performance ever, struggling from accent to expression — worse performance than an Instagrammer posing for a pretentious post. And Tom Hanks (Sully, Bridge of Spies, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia), the best actor in the film, is wasted as a one-note, Steve Jobs-like antagonist with little screen time. For a film that had a good material to work with, I don’t think it could’ve gotten any worse than this.

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What I would’ve named the film: “If Google Excels in Social Media Too”

Malaysian censorship: Don’t think anything’s needed to be censored. It felt like the film censored itself, if you know what I mean.

Verdict: Interesting material not well materialised.

Rating: 2 / 5

In memory of the late Bill Paxton (1955 – 2017), no meme was created with this review.

bill paxton the circle still

the circle movie poster malaysiaBased on: Dave Egger’s 2013 novel “The Circle”

Genre: Sci-fi, drama, techno-thriller
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director: James Ponsoldt
Screenwriters: James Ponsoldt, Dave Egger
Cast: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega

Malaysia Release Date: 18 June 2017
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Likely Story, Playtone

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