The Circle spins its wheels

“Knowing is good, knowing everything is better,” gushes Tom Hanks as CEO Eamon Bailey in a TED Talk-like presentation to a cheering crowd of employees in The Circle.

Touted as a thriller, the film centres around a fictitious company known as The Circle, a “Facebook meets Google” social media mega corporation intent on total global domination and transparency.

Mae Holland (Emma Watson – Harry Potter films) thinks she’s found her dream job when she lands an interview at the high-tech company. 

“Sharing is caring,” chant the cult-like workers who live and work at the pristine campus that caters to its employees' every need from hair salons to dog-yoga in the park.

Everything seems too good to be true and it is; The Circle is intent on eradicating personal privacy at all costs.

The premise, based on the 2013 novel by Dave Eggers, has potential, but in the hands of Director James Ponsoldt (Smashed), falls flatter than a pancake.

Suffering from the death-knell of cautious politeness, there is no thrill in this thriller, there is no menace, no subterfuge and, unfortunately, no believable characters.

In a film that centres around social connection, this story is grossly lacking in humanity. Realistic, fully fleshed out human beings have been replaced by stereotypes with names:

  • Mae Holland is the unsuspecting heroine
  • Eamon Bailey is the villain
  • Mercer (Ellar Coltrane – Boyhood) is the friend who warns her of danger
  • Annie (Karen Gillan – Guardians of the Galaxy) is the jealous friend
  • Glenne Headly (Mr. Holland’s Opus) and the late Bill Paxton (Titanic) are the worried parents
  • Ty (John Boyega – Star Wars, The Force Awakens) is the romantic interest

Emma Watson is either terribly underutilized in this role or just isn’t the actress she’s been made out to be. Her character is flat and the moments where she is supposed to break down feel forced and unbelievable.

(We actually found ourselves sniggering at some of her scenes – hardly the desired effect I’m sure she, or the director had in mind.)

One of the few highlights in this film is Tom Hanks as the kind and caring CEO of the corporation. True to every role he takes on, Hanks plays the part of the CEO with a likeable sincerity that is convincing.  

This film is supposed to tackle issues of technology and the role it plays in both transparency and privacy and how we are struggling to find that balance.

This movie could have worked if it had ramped up to crazed levels and spun out of control. The problem is, we never learn of any darker motives so the climax of the film fails to make any kind of statement at all.

In the hands of a more daring and creative director, this film could have succeeded as a full-length feature of a Black Mirror episode.

In her job interview, Mae Holland says her greatest fear is “unrealized potential." Unfortunately, these words were prophetic as this film is just that.

I give his movie 1 out of 5 hearts and that’s only for Mr. Hanks (who should really question why he agreed to do it in the first place).

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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