Oh boy, how to start this review. Let me go in for a metaphor for those looking to be spoiler-free. The book version of The Circle is a skilled marathon runner, with a planned out process, with practiced pacing and a nuanced understanding of how to go the distance. The movie version is like a beginner going in without much training. It sprints as fast as it can before sputtering, red-faced and incoherent, in a heap, still miles away from a finish line. It’s not even a can’t-look-away kind of crash and burn, it’s just sort of pathetic and sad. I definitely don’t recommend watching, go get the book instead.
Now, for those of you who are sticking around to see just how badly this movie fails, let’s do a quick recap. Mae Holland gets a job at The Circle, which is basically like if Apple and Google bought Facebook and then took over everything. However, as Mae moves up in the organization and meets the CEOs, Eamon and Tom, she becomes ingrained into the system, a tool of the Circle to promote it’s fully integrated lifestyle. But at what cost? As you’ll see, not much.
So the movie has several big issues that cannot be overlooked. The biggest being that there is no suspense built up for anything. For example, at the end of the film, Eamon and Tom get all their emails, professional and private, get revealed and it’s treated like it’s a big deal. However, we don’t really get a feel for them, let alone why putting everything up is a big deal. They’re keeping data to use for their own purposes — that’s about it. I’m not saying that’s not bad, but it just doesn’t get enough build up. What shady dealings are hiding in those emails? No one ever says and nothing is done about it. The whole movie is like this. It rushes to get in all the exposition but then never stops rushing through character interaction and discovery to get to the end.
The ending is just ridiculous. Honestly there’s no other word for it. Basically, Holland makes all the emails public at a company meeting, exposing whatever secrets there were that the movie is apparently not interested in. She leads everyone out of the auditorium, saying that she is going to change everything. The next scene is Mae in a kayak by herself when some drones come in on her. She says hello as we see the different people around the world on screen and…that’s it. The end. How did she change the Circle? There is still global surveillance and yet this isn’t an issue? What happened to Eamon and Tom? What happened to The Circle? The film’s answer seems to be “Who cares?” It’s like someone just ran out idea and gave up the endeavor entirely.
Mae Holland, as she’s written, is bland. She is just so sweet and so trusting but she has no personality to speak of. She feels most fleshed out when she’s talking like a spokesperson and that is a real issue. In the book, Mae backstabs people, she has conflicting thoughts and she can be cruel. But in the movie, she has such cliched reactions to everything that she doesn’t feel like a person – she feels like she’s standing in for the audience in the most boring way possible. Bring into it that Emma Watson does little to add any depth to the character which only served to drag the film down further.
In fact, so much of the cast is like this — John Boyega gets the bland treatment by having only three scenes in which he does anything except have vaguely concerned expressions. Ellar Coltrane as Mercer lacks charm, and his only redeeming quality as a character is his fate. The only three actors who genuinely look like they’re trying are Tom Hanks and Patton Oswald as the benevolent heads of The Circle, who are supposedly up to no-good, and Karen Gillan, who has an emotional breakdown on screen that is genuinely heartbreaking.
The film’s one exceptional quality is the aesthetic. The world of The Circle’s campus is like a dream – gorgeous and sleek, and the kind of workplace that most people dream of. Everything is thoughtfully designed, everything is so lovingly framed and every color works perfectly, designed with every detail in place. If anything, I just wanted to live in that world, ignoring the sub-par plot and just roll around in the high-tech paradise.
Ultimately, this movie is a waste of talent and design, a movie with such amazing potential that fell out of the sky like a dead weight. It’s not even an experiment in bad movie-making, it’s just a poorly executed bland script that should have been reworked into something with a backbone, or at the very least something with some actual emotion.
The Circle is a disappointment in that a film so pretty is so poorly written, directed, and acted. I wouldn’t even recommend it for bad movie nights — more than being mocked, this movie should be pitied and it should be excluded from the resumés of all involved.