I watched this film last Friday evening, for Movie Night during the 7 Day Hygge Challenge. That night the intent of the blog post was to highlight the fun and coziness of the experience. Tonight I share the review for this intriguing film.
The Circle stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Ellar Coltrane, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton, Karen Gillan and Patton Oswalt. This sci-fi thriller, directed by James Ponsoldt, is based on the novel by Dave Eggers. The Circle is rated PG-13, for brief strong language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Mae (Watson) feels trapped in a dead end job. When her friend Annie (Gillan) calls, telling Mae she got her an interview at The Circle, the future suddenly seems full of promise. The Circle is a powerful, innovation technology company, run by founder Eamon Bailey (Hanks) and chief technology officer, Tom Stenton (Oswalt). Annie is currently one of the influential 40 in the company, with heavy responsibilities that necessitate frequent travels and long hours.
Mae’s interview goes well. She is hired to work in Customer Experience, an entry level position that requires her to chat with clients on multiple computer screens. Each client then rates their experience. Mae works diligently to reach an approval score of 100%.
After her first week, Mae begins to learn more about the huge company she is part of. The Circle, a cross between Facebook and Google, uses pioneering technology to bring people around the world together, in real time, and allow them to access everything from one app. The sprawling, circular campus houses buildings and dormitories, containing basically everything their employees need.
Mae learns that she is expected to be on campus, even when she isn’t working, taking part in the many scheduled activities and programs. Mae meets a colleague at a party. He turns to be Ty Lafitte (Boyega), the creator of TrueYou, one of The Circle’s most popular products. Ty is disgruntled with the company, sharing with Mae that TrueYou is being used in ways he did not intend. Fearing The Circle’s future expansion plans, he shows Mae a secret underground chamber, full of computer banks. Soon, he speculates, everything about every politician will be stored there. And will the tracking of individuals end there?
Mae is unsure though. The Circle is taking care of her parents, Bonnie (Headly) and Vinnie (Paxton). Vinnie has advanced Multiple Sclerosis and can’t get the help he needs until The Circle intercedes for him, providing him and his wife with housing on campus and cutting edge medical care. And Eamon is charismatic as he leads a company meeting about his latest gadget, called SeeChange. These tiny cameras/computers can be mounted anywhere. They not only provide amazingly clear visuals, they also give continuous information and data. Eamon believes transparency results in accountability. He wants the entire world to become transparent.
Mae pledges herself entirely to the company’s ideals and extravagant goals. After an incident in a stolen kayak on rough seas is captured on a SeeChange camera, making possible her rescue, Mae agrees to become the first Circler to go totally transparent. She will wear a small camera/computer during her waking hours, giving the world unlimited access to her work, her friends and family, and every detail of her life.
Mae becomes a celebrity. She constantly receives feedback, questions and comments from her viewers. But the continual live feed begins to take a toll on her relationships. Her parents can’t handle living so publicly, and leave The Circle. Mae’s off the grid friend, Mercer (Coltrane), is horrified by her decision and comes under personal attack when he takes a stand against what she’s doing.
Is it true that secrets are the same as lies? Is sharing every aspect of life really a form of caring? And is privacy a theft that deprives others of living vicariously through another’s actions? Mae finds herself at the center of vast, far teaching changes that could have massive implications for the whole world.
This was an interesting story. It was easy to see that our global society is not far from the tech uses and changes that The Circle explores. We are used to receiving streaming information, of all types, in an instant. We chat via facetime and use our phones to record details of our own lives and the lives or our friends, neighbors and total strangers.
I can catch a glimpse of the world The Circle says is coming, simply by logging onto Facebook. The questions raised by this movie made me think. Is complete transparency good or bad? Will there always be people pretending to live openly who are, in fact, those with the darkest secrets to hide? What happens to those who hold out or prefer to live private lives off the grid? And who makes the rules and enforces them?
I thought The Circle was a fascinating look at what could be our near future. Did it raise alarms? It did, for me. I appreciate all that technology has to offer and I make use of it. I don’t want to be watched during all of my waking hours. However, when do we cross the point of no return? And will we realize we’ve gone too far, before it’s too late?
I thought I knew how this movie was going to end. And right up until the end, I thought I was right. Oh, how I do love a clever twist, in a thought provoking movie!