Based on Dave Eggers’ novel of the same name, The Circle raises some interesting questions about the expanding role technology plays in our everyday lives, but lacks the necessary depth to explore the them. Eggers co-wrote the screenplay with the film’s director James Ponsoldt whose previous films include the teen romance The Spectacular Now and the highly recommended David Foster Wallace biopic, The End of the Tour.
The Circle follows the story of Mae (Emma Watson, Beauty and the Beast), who is thrilled when her friend Annie gets her an interview at The Circle. A mega tech corporation, The Circle has clearly been modeled after Google, with a little bit of Apple thrown until for good measure. After an interview designed to show the need culture that pervades Silicon Valley, Mae soon finds herself learning the ropes in Customer Experience, where achieving 100% on satisfaction surveys is paramount. Mae takes to the company culture – The living arrangements, open-floor work space, and constant positive support, like a fish to water. The CEO of The Circle, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks, channeling Steve Jobs), provides his employees with rousing pep talks/product updates.
Mae is the films central character, and its biggest flaw. She’s not really fully developed, almost boring. Emotionally inconsistent, Mae is just there to act as a convenient portal for whatever The Circle has to offer at a given moment. Initially, I thought Mae’s dull affect might be the result of a “phoned in” performance from Watson, but as the film progressed, it became clear she wasn’t given a lot of thoughtful dialogue to work with. In contrast, Tom Hanks gives Eamon Bailey a kind of relaxed confidence that makes you want to know more about his story. Even though he’s technically a “villain” here, Hanks succeeds in making him likable. It almost makes you wish his character were the focus of things.
Worse yet, the narrative often seems clunky and rushed. Several “major” scenes (like the one where Mae’s former boyfriend tries to escape a hoard of camera toting people and drones) feel forced. The best moments are Bailey’s pep talks, and the brainstorming sessions involving Mae and her fellow employees. It’s during these scenes that we get a sense of how these individuals, as wrapped up in the culture of The Circle as they are, may truly feel about various issues.
Sadly, wasted are the talents of John Boyega (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as the founder of The Circle who no longer trusts the company he created, and Bill Paxton in his final film role as Mae’s MS-stricken father. The Circle isn’t a terrible movie. However, given the caliber of people involved, I expected better execution.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, The Circle offers a fairly solid 1080p transfer. Sharpness and level of detail are strong throughout. The color palette looks natural, and appropriate. Faces look realistic, with just a couple of scenes where Emma Watson’s face looks a bit on the red side. There are no scratches or blemishes to report.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers some solid moments of immersion courtesy of crowd and kayaking scenes, but this is generally a pretty low-key experience. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, Fidelity is fine, and drop-out or distortion isn’t an issue.
English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- No More Secrets: Completing The Circle (HD, 30:56) Four featurettes documenting the film’s production.
- The Future Won’t Wait: Design and Technology (HD, 10:55) A look at the film’s production design.
- A True Original: Remembering Bill Paxton (HD, 13:53) An homage to the actor with some heartfelt thoughts from Tom Hanks.
- DVD of the film.
- UV Digital Copy.
- Digital Copy.
Movie title: The Circle (2017)
Director(s): James Ponsoldt
Actor(s): Emma Watson , Tom Hanks , Karen Gillan , John Boyega , Bill Paxton , Patton Oswalt
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Drama