Circle (2015)

Circle is a 2015 American psychological thriller film written and directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione. The ensemble cast includes Carter Jenkins, Lawrence Kao, Allegra Masters, Michael Nardelli, Julie Benz, Mercy Malick, Lisa Pelikan, and Cesar Garcia. It was inspired by the 1957 drama 12 Angry Men and was shot in 2014. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 28, 2015, before being released to video-on-demand on October 16, 2015.

In the film, fifty people wake up in a darkened room, only to find that one of them is killed every two minutes or when they attempt to leave. When they realize that they can control which person is selected to die, blocs emerge based on personal values.  When someone ignores the warning and leaves formation, a beam from the dome kills them, and the dead are eventually removed by unseen forces. Thereafter, every two minutes, another person is killed. After several people die, they realize the technology allows them to use hand gestures to vote for who dies, while arrows on the floor show each person their own vote but not others’. They attempt to all boycott the vote, but someone is still randomly selected to die.

First the group decided to eliminate the elderly so they get more time to evaluate the situation and come up with a plan. A young man, Eric, remembers attempting to flee Los Angeles, and others concur. Eric says that he was pulled into the air, later waking in a red room with other humans. The old man next in line agrees, saying he saw and heard aliens. The college guy suffers the next elimination after he aggressively targets a 52-year-old cancer survivor over the objections of people who do not consider her elderly. Several people say they recognize the others: a man identifies the woman next to him as his wife, another man identifies the doctor who was having an affair with him, and a tattooed man is eliminated after he admits to a cop’s accusation of domestic abuse. After several minorities are quickly eliminated, an African-American man claims the process has become racist. Several others dispute this, but when the cop goes on a racist rant, he is selected next.

They find that they cannot vote for themselves and attempt to give one vote to every person in the circle. One man gives a second vote for a pregnant woman, so Eric votes for him; this causes a tie and the man is killed in a run-off vote. The group realizes that one of the final two people left must not vote (and be killed) to render a winner.  After several take their own lives by leaving formation to buy the others time, an atheist antagonizes the theists who praised the volunteers’ faith. The atheist is briefly saved, but when he mocks the girl beside him for having had her boss pay for her breast enhancements, he is killed. A lesbian becomes a target, but the lawyer who argued strongest for her selection is killed instead. After several eliminations, two main blocs emerge. One bloc (led by Eric, a soldier, and a one-armed man) believes that everyone should sacrifice themselves to save the pregnant woman and a girl for last, and the other bloc (led by a bearded man and a rich man) wants to eliminate them immediately as a threat to their survival, as they believe everyone is equal, and no special privileges should be afforded to anyone.

A husband is forced to vote with Eric’s bloc when they threaten to eliminate his wife, but, under interrogation, the couple admit they concocted the relationship to curry favor, resulting in the husband’s elimination. Finally it’s just Eric, the pregnant woman, the girl, and a silent man who has never voted. Eric theorizes that aliens have used the process to learn about humanity’s values. After the silent man is eliminated, Eric and the girl agree to simultaneously sacrifice themselves. As the girl commits suicide, Eric instead casts a last-second vote to kill the pregnant woman, then the pregnant woman’s unborn child. Eric wakes in Los Angeles where he joins a group of people, composed of an equal amount of women, men, and children, watching a fleet of alien crafts.

The script covers political, social, and psychological issues and reminds me of a Twilight Zone style story. I did not like the ending though as it leaves a lot of unanswered questions and leaves the fate of the survivors in doubt. The rest of the movie is pretty solid. I give it a 7 outta 10!

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