The Circle is a 2017 American techno-thriller film directed by James Ponsoldt and written by Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers, based on Eggers’ 2013 novel of the same name. The film stars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, with John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton. It is the final performance of Paxton’s career, and was released just after his death in February 2017. It is also Headly’s penultimate performance before her death in June 2017.
The movie is set in the near future (it’s not really mentioned as such but from the look of things I’d guess in the next couple of years) where technology and social media is on the cusp of really taking over the world in a way that privacy can really take a back seat. I mean just look at movie stars and pop stars in Hollywood or any big city – they are hounded by the media and the paparazzi and at times you feel bad for them because they cannot even go to a cafe and enjoy some food and coffee in peace and without makeup on and looking at their best because pics would be splashed all over the internet.
Mae is a person who finds herself working for a tech company called The Circle in customer service. The company comes up with these really small cameras, in a project called SeeChange, to provide real time videos anywhere and everywhere. So much so that connected to the online community, you can track someone – anyone – at anytime anywhere because there is always a camera around and there are people who alert you to spotting that person you are looking for. The company has a very strong social media and even physical community with weekend parties and other events planned and although Mae is at first overwhelmed, she embraces the life and soon rises in popularity in the company.
Despite being warned by the man who created some of this tech, Mae soon finds herself taken in for special notice by the top brass – Eamon & Tom – and her family’s medical bills are taken care by her company insurance. After an incident in which she almost drowns Mae is encourages to announce at a company meeting to be the first employee to go completely transparent – which involves wearing a small camera and exposing her life to the world. She is always connected and people see what she sees and can see her – except for when she needs to go to the bathroom. Her friend Annie, the one who helped her get the job, disapproves. The Circle soon becomes more powerful as voting could be done via people’s Circle accounts and suggestions are made that every citizen have a mandatory Circle account and vote in the elections.
With all these political and power connotations, it’s a more personal matter than changes Mae’s mind about the company. When a friend, Mercer, is hounded by company employees for a misunderstanding, the cameras find him despite him doing his best to go off the grid. While evading the cameras and the people who try to find him, he has an accident and dies. This devastates Mae who goes home for a few days. With the help of Ty, one of the creators in the company, she announces a radical change in the company – at the next company wide meeting, inviting both Eamon and Tom to go fully transparent. She explains how Ty has found all their accounts, even the accounts that their wives were unaware of, and exposes them as no one should be exempt. Eamon and Tom, clearly upset, try to save face before Tom leaves the stage.
Mae reiterates her point of transparency being good, with the support of the audience. Mae goes kayaking again, untroubled by the drones that surround her. The film serves as a kind of warning as to where the information age could be heading and though they make a good attempt, it fails in execution when compared to the novel. I would give it a 6.5 outta 10!