Working at The Circle was supposed to provide Mae Holland endless opportunities, professionally and personally. Except she soon finds the overbearing nature of the tech giant more troubling than inspirational. Based on the Dave Eggers novel of the same name, The Circle explores our worlds fascination with technological advances, social media and surveillance. Billed as a “tech thriller”, The Circle isn’t so much thrilling as it is confusing and bland.
While working in a menial temp job, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is given the chance to interview at The Circle, a mega powerful tech corporation. After making a great impression, she begins working at the bottom of the totem pole, in Customer Experience. Right away it seems as if The Circle is the coolest place to work. With offerings of concerts, parties, top-notch amenities, among fantastic medical benefits, it’s a young professionals dream.
Although Mae excels in her job, it quickly becomes apparent that your presence socially is just as important as your work. So Mae keeps up appearances, eventually catching the eye of Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), the head of The Circle. She is offered the opportunity to go “fully transparent” and broadcast her life live; all day, every day. This is something The Circle aims to push on the broader population—politicians included—so no secrets can be kept. Mae soon discovers that the lack of privacy, combined with the never-ending surveillance and judgement, isn’t as beneficial to society as it appeared.
In The Circle, the goal is to make life better while also being a step ahead. They want to be the pioneers of the next big thing, much like Apple and Facebook. You couldn’t help but notice glaring similarities between Eamon Bailey’s presentations and those of Steve Jobs. The film is an obvious examination of our societies obsession with surveillance and broadcasting our lives via social media and Mae is very much an influencer in the way she “vlogs” her life. Although the film does a great job of capturing our infatuation with tech and online presence, I couldn’t help but notice its lack of overall purpose and plot development.
For a film to have such an obvious real-life example, it seemed to fail at delivering what the point of the film was. The ending seemed to have no real resolution nor did it ever establish Mae’s feelings on tech and surveillance, despite some truly awful things happening to her at the hands of the services. We also get introduced to Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), one of the most brilliant minds behind The Circle. Yet his insight into the company feels like untapped potential to really explore its secrets. It felt like the movie needed an “aha moment” with his direction, but it never came.
While the premise itself is very relevant, The Circle seemed to not understand how to wrap up its story. It seems there is quite the plot change from novel to screen, which may be why the story seems so off. With an abrupt ending, you’re left feeling a bit confused and attempting to grasp at what little symbolism the film has.
Despite some big talent, this film proves that hot A-list stars don’t always make for a great film. Sadly, this film is also the last performance by the late Bill Paxton, who portrays Mae’s father.
The Circle is in theaters now