Written by Dave Eggars and James Ponsoldt
Based on the novel ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggars
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Bill Paxton and Patton Oswalt
A thriller about the information age and how it’s slowly eroding both our ability to interact socially and the information that we consider personal sounds like an interesting premise. Unfortunately, James Ponsoldt’s The Circle doesn’t seem to find a way to execute the ambitious nature of this presence.
The movie follows Mae Holland (Watson), a woman dealing with the issues that most millennials face, she works in a dead-end job, her car breaks down and her father Vinnie (Paxton) is dealing with Multiple Sclerosis. When Mae’s friend Annie (Gillan) tells her about an opportunity to become an employee of the biggest tech company in the world, she agrees. She gets a low-level job on The Circle’s sprawling campus, which is an obvious call to Apple’s headquarters Apple Park in Cupertino, and begins to get acclimated to the atmosphere and the people.
At this point, during a company meeting, we are introduced to the co-founder of The Circle Eamon Bailey (Hanks). Hanks has always had an ability to be both charming and charismatic even in roles where he’s playing someone of dubious intent. He and his partner Tom Stenton (Oswalt) are introducing a new social media project that will increase transparency for everyone. Through a series of events that are slightly contrived, Mae finds herself the guinea pig and spokesperson for this new technology. Her newfound fame comes at the cost of her relationships to her friends and family and ultimately, questions the nature of accountability for both her and The Circle.
There are a lot of interesting concepts at play in this movie. The biggest problem is that none of them are explored in a way that ultimately serves any of the characters or the overall story. Even the character of Ty (Boyega), Mae’s link to the shady dealings of The Circle is under utilized. Also, there was nothing particularly thrilling about this thriller. The stakes were minimal and the only real tension comes from a moment that is completely the fault of the lead that we are supposed to be connected to.
Another issue is that the movie ends so abruptly that one wonders if anyone involved knew what they were actually trying to say about the concepts that they were introducing.
Overall, The Circle is an example of reach exceeding grasp. Huge, important and interesting premises are introduced and then poorly followed through and executed.