“Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better.”
If there’s any quote from this week’s new film The Circle that summarizes the entire plot of the near two-hour cinematic flop, that’s the one. If I had known it would be that simple, I might not have felt so bad about stepping out to refill my popcorn.
Starring Emma Watson (Harry Potter, Beauty and the Beast) as Mae and Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Sully) as company co-founder Eamon Bailey, The Circle is a dystopian film based on the novel by Dan Eggers.
The film centers around the concept of an always-connected society with no privacy whatsoever — tiny cameras that look eerily like little eyeballs are everywhere, there are trackers on everyone’s wrists, health records are accessible on a whim and anywhere you go, someone is always watching.
At the onset of the film, protagonist Mae works in customer support at a small company. Looking for a change, her friend Annie, played by Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who) lands her an interview with a huge tech company, The Circle.
The company takes the concepts of transparency and social media to an entirely new level. Slightly reminiscent of modern-day Facebook, this futuristic website not only makes health records public, but also gives anyone associated with the network access to every email, phone call, text message, internet search and just about anything else imaginable.
Watson’s character eventually decides to go entirely “transparent,” meaning that essentially every minute of her life is live-streamed for the entire world. She no longer has any privacy whatsoever, aside from the three minutes she gets to go to the bathroom.
The Circle’s co-founder walks out on stage within the first few minutes of the film in a manner much like Steve Jobs at every Apple product unveiling. He introduces the latest technological advancement, which happens to be an easily camouflaged camera that can be stuck anywhere.
However, perhaps the most unsettling part of the film was when Mae introduced the concept of SoulSearch, a service that puts out information about a “fugitive of justice” (or, really, any citizen) to everyone associated within The Circle’s network. Within minutes, anyone can be found, no matter where they are.
In a world where individual privacy is already dwindling and live-streams of horrendous crimes are becoming more frequent, the concept of The Circle is rather off-putting. There are already ways to track friends and family members through apps nowadays, but the idea of one day having the ability to find out anything about — and watch — anyone in the world at any moment is something that I can surely live without.
Hanks and Watson’s acting performances were nothing to write the Academy about. Ellar Coltrane’s (Boyhood, Fast Food Nation) lack of acting prowess as Mae’s friend Mercer was distracting — and not in a good way. Every time he came on-screen, let’s just say I was glad I had my popcorn to entertain me. I’ve seen body doubles with better acting skills.
The ending seemed more like a political statement than a typical movie ending, the call for the company’s leaders to go fully “transparent” and release their internal communications with the entire world echoes what many have been telling the Trump administration as of late, as transparency is the one thing that Americans have been missing from the White House.
Overall, the acting was mediocre, the storyline was downright creepy and the ending, while interesting, left much to be desired. Given that it’s only received 4.3/10 stars on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s pretty safe to say that this film won’t top the box office.
Rating: 3/5 circles