Um… *raises my hand* Movie! Movie, pick me! I don’t know what you’re about! It looks like a movie about being in the center of everything that’s going on in the world and doing what they can to help those in need. My personal observation is that it’s going to prove too good to be true and comes at a high moral price that our hero doesn’t want to pay and gets into a heap of trouble. But yeah, no idea. Just spit-ballin’.
Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring is the ever-popular Emma Watson (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , THE BLING RING , and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER ). Love her or hate her as an actress, it’s pretty hard not to have respect for this woman who has fought so hard for gender equality for most of her young adult life, making some valid points along the way. But shes certainly never lost sight of how she got her platform in the first place, by being in some pretty solid work in film. She’s a fine actress and though her days of being Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films may be long behind her, but she’s still a hero for many out there. Next up, we have the multi-generational legend himself, Tom mother f**kin’ Hanks (INFERNO , SAVING MR. BANKS , CLOUD ATLAS , and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 ). I’ve ranted about this man before, I can’t keep doing it without sounding like a broken record. You know him, you love him, Tom mother f**kin’ Hanks, ladies and gentlemen. In support, we have Ellar Coltrane (BOYHOOD ), the rising star that is John Boyega (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS , IMPERIAL DREAMS , TV show 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY, and upcoming films and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI  and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING ), Nate Corddry (EQUITY , ST. VINCENT , and THE HEAT ), Karen Gillan (THE BIG SHORT , OCULUS , and upcoming films GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2  and JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE ), and the dearly departed legend, Bill Paxton (EDGE OF TOMORROW , TITANIC , and ALIENS ), making this his final completed film. Anyone else get just a little depressed?
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is James Ponsoldt, known for THE END OF THE TOUR (2015). Co-writing and author of the original novel this movie is based on is Dave Eggers, known for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009) and writing the novel A Hologram for the King. Composing the score is *double take* Danny Elfman (FIFTY SHADES DARKER , BIG EYES , and FRANKENWEENIE )?! What are you doing out of your Tim Burton corner?! Get back to where you belong before I get the tranq gun! Finally Matthew Libatique (MONEY MONSTER , IRON MAN , and THE FOUNTAIN ).
Overall, I haven’t the slightest idea what to expect. I can’t even speculate. So… adventure, ho!
This is my honest opinion of: THE CIRCLE
Mae (Emma Watson) has just been hired into a very prestigious company, focusing on the collection of global information, known as The Circle, ran by its mastermind, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks). She is quickly taken in by their agenda of creating a safe and secure world of accountability and truth. Mae is quickly sucked in to it despite the skepticism of her friends and family. But as Mae climbs the ranks within The Circle, she starts to forget basic human rights, despite good intentions and could lead to drastic and life-threatening consequences.
Oh shit is this movie bad. Like, really bad. Almost insultingly bad.
So the whole basis around this movie, THE BEST I CAN FIGURE, is that it revolves around a company that’s sort of like Apple, on the cutting edge of ground-breaking technology and such, except their expertise is the accumulation of knowledge to be shared around with any and everyone hooked into the company’s servers. Thing is, almost right out of the gate, there is zero sensibility and one hundred kinds of hypocrisy. The Circle’s ground-breaking tech is camouflaged cameras that can be placed literally anywhere and take pictures, perform facial recognition, without the need, or perceived need, for warrants or permission. Now, you’d think this is the major conflict of the film. This young woman is about to work for this huge-ass company, popular in every way possible way – and not possible way, as the story continues – that you can think of. And I can see what this movie is essentially trying to be: an argument for the government that maybe they have the right idea in having such unlimited access to anyone and everyone’s personal information, their whereabouts, everything, and having the good sense to know what to do with that information, and actually do some good with it, while also showing what the reaction from the general public would be if such invasion of privacy could happen and the reaction when it’s mishandled, even abused. However, the consistent sin of the film is that this isn’t the conflict. This isn’t what the movie ultimately is about. It’s about how if one abuse of invasion of privacy is bad, resort to another abuse of it, and that will suddenly make it okay. It’s complete and utter bullshit to a magnitude that I’m not sure I can fully comprehend.
The movie barely acknowledges that the actions of these characters is in any way a violation of privacy laws, or even that it’s creepy as all hell. But it’s fully capable of acknowledging that its characters can do whatever the hell they want without any repercussions whatsoever. Let me give you an example. The first scene where we’re introduced to Hanks’ Eamon Bailey is during this company seminar and Bailey is rolling out his new camo-cam. I know I’m probably repeating a lot, but this really needs to get analyzed in order for people to understand what kind of shit-storm that’s being offered to them. This company prides itself on how information is free and open to the those that are watching. So literally, everyone who has a “Circle Account” can simply log in and watch this seminar take place. Bailey explicitly says that he didn’t put up his cameras on the beach with permission of any kind. Okay… with a company as famous world-wide as it is… HELLO, POLICE! WAKE THE HELL UP! Law enforcement of any kind, where the hell are they in coming down on The Circle. Yes, there’s a Senator that’s trying to dismantle the company to no avail, but a senator isn’t the police, the FBI, the CIA, none of them. How is it that a company like this can exist without a shit-load of government agencies raining a hurricane of investigation on them? This shouldn’t be that hard to catch them red-handed, especially considering how blatantly open they are about their activities. Just log on to their servers, and figure it out from there! Now that I’m thinking about it, why bother with the camo-cam if you’re just going to have a server that’s going to show what those cameras are shooting to the mass public? Just set up a normal cam, if you’re that freakin’ confident in your own bullshit. There’s even a bit in the seminar where Bailey reveals he’s got, like, a hundred cameras set up in a single location.
Okay, full disclosure, since that seems to be the theme of this movie, I have a couple of adios mf’s in me right now, so if I end up prattling on about stuff… enjoy the nonsense, I guess, but can you really blame me? If you saw this movie, you’d need a long island-variant in your system too in order to understand it. Ugh, moving on.
Even the audience introduction into this company is awkward as all hell. When Mae gets the job, she goes in for her interview. Instead of the standard, “Why should we hire you?” “What do you do if a guest complains?” they ask the most random questions, which you can witness in one of the trailers for this movie. They ask, things like, “Sonic, or Mario?” “Will you go out with me?” “The needs of the many, or the needs of the individual?” They’re all tests of some kind, but you never get a sense of what the purposes of these questions are. The best I can determine is more about how they’re answered and the answer given determines the… desirability of the employee. Is that even a word? You know what, if a movie can get made about ignoring laws, I can ignore the dictionary. Either way, WHAT THE HELL?! Oh and get this, the movie is kind enough give you a tour of the grounds of The Circle company, composed of buildings! Lots of buildings! None of which you’ll ever see the inside of! Maybe I should explain. Mae is touring with her friend, Annie (Karen Gillan). But you’d swear she was hopped up on caffeine pills and a unicorn frappuccino with an injection of pure adrenaline because she’s talking so damn fast and pointing at every damn thing. “That’s the blah-blah building where we blah-blah, and that’s the west wing where we blah-blah-blah, and over there is the blah-blah where we blah.” You’re not following a single thing that Annie is saying and because so much information is being hurled at you, you couldn’t possibly store all that information away. Not that it matters because, like I said, you’ll never go into those buildings anyway, rendering that entire fifteen seconds completely pointless. Oh, except for that one funny line, “Your legs are so long!” uttered by Watson. I admit, that was funny. Is Gillan freakishly tall? Doesn’t matter, moving on.
How about how this movie thinks real people act? Oh boy, let me tell you! So The Circle doubles as a social media platform. Probably goes without saying since this company feels like all information should be open to any and everyone. But anyway, the movie thinks that everyone on social media is blood-thirsty and downright bipolar. How do I mean? When Mae uploads a picture of one of Mercer’s wooden deer antlers, the internet at large practically castrates the poor guy, calling him a deer killer and harassing him mercilessly. Um… did Mae not think to mention in some sort of caption, “Not real antlers. Made of wood”? Even had that been an oversight, by the time news of this reached her, this should have been an easy and fast fix. “Hey guys, back off. Mercer’s antlers are made of wood. They’re not real antlers!” And then the internet would have shut their mouths and apologized. But no, Mae never sets the record straight!
And this entire incident is being viewed life on The Circle’s cameras, so you’re wondering where the God damned police are in all this.
Wanna know where this ends up? Toward the last third of the movie, Mae introduces “SoulSearch.” A program that will enable the ability to find any given person in under twenty minutes, with the help of The Circle community. After putting away a criminal in its demo, they try again, but this time, they want to find Mercer, who wants to remain off the grid. Here’s where I have all the problems with how this movie portrays everyone. First off, I can buy the every-person helping to track down a wanted criminal, especially a child-killing mother. This makes sense. But why would anyone want to hunt down a random dude who still believes in privacy and being left alone? Why would a random person on the street go out of their way to expose someone like that. Mercer isn’t a criminal, but you have a couple of assholes who treat finding him like it’s a game, and continue to harass him and call him a deer killer. I’m pretty sure the common person would just ignore the request if it wasn’t a matter of life and death. But no, this movie has Mercer just trying to be left alone, takes his truck and drives away. You’d think that’d be the end of it, but no! They hop into their cars and chase after him! If that wasn’t enough, The Circle has drones following overhead. Yes, f**king drones… and one of them flies in front of Mercer, who naturally freaks out, which causes him to swerve off a bridge, and dies. And it’s only now that everyone who berated him now starts to feel empathy and sadness over his death. Bullshit. Especially when people are saying things, like, “It’s not your fault, Mae.” Uh, no, it is Mae’s fault. She had all the power to say “no,” and she didn’t commit to it. Peer pressure. That’s what the decision boiled down to. And The Circle doesn’t claim any responsibility for their part in Mercer’s death. I’m pretty sure someone said that no one could have seen this happen. Right, so f**k you guys who keep claiming that we need to live in a society of accountability and I don’t see a single f**king person being held accountable! Mae holds herself responsible for Mercer’s death because of her program; rightfully so! She is partly to blame. The assholes that chased Mercer? They were a part of his death! Where’s their accountability?! And The Circle! It was a Circle drone that caused Mercer to drive off the bridge! So never mind that it was a Circle program that violated Mercer’s privacy, common Circle users hunting him down in the name of The Circle, but The Circle is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MERCER’S DEATH!!! AND NO ONE IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE!!! This is a new low in hypocrisy!
How about the characters? Are they any good?
One would think that Mae would represent the every-person. We do live in an age where we are pretty dependent on our tech; phones, Ipads, and such. And Mae is transported into a world where technology allows you see into… well, pretty much everything. Later on, she becomes so grateful for the tech provided by The Circle that she immerses herself in the tech by going, “transparent,” wearing a camera at all times that provides a live feed for every second of her day, and anyone and everyone can see what she’s doing, including brushing her teeth. She eventually goes on to incorporate new branches of the tech provided by The Circle and becomes a pretty prominent face of the company. Thing is, she sees nothing wrong with these blatant violations of privacy. Or maybe she does, through some facial expressions, as expressed in this one scene with Gina and… whoever that other guys was. In this scene, it’s been expressed by these two characters – by the way, creepy as f**k – that Mae hasn’t essentially signed in to the company chat room where she can express her personal concerns and what have you. This is a ten minute scene of total skin-crawling and unease. She goes to see the… I guess the company doctor. Kind of like a “school nurse” but for the company. Makes her ingest a micro-chip via a drink. Yes, a drink that syncs up to a wrist-watch that tracks where she is, and WHO THE HELL GREEN-LIT THIS TECH???? Point is, Mae is not a character that anyone can connect with. At least, not as effectively as anyone writing this screenplay thinks. She gets too engrossed into this company’s goals that at some point, connection with her character is completely severed. Where once her motivations can be kind of justified, later on contribute to a problem that this movie already doesn’t care to think is a problem.
How about some other noticeable talent? That kid from BOYHOOD is in this movie. Is he good in this? Surprisingly no. In fact, if you want to see the worst this movie offers, see any scene where Watson interacts with Coltrane. Is Coltrane just a bad actor, or was he given bad direction or dialog? The two actors have zero chemistry. It’s like every scene they have together was a rehearsal take, not actual effort in acting. And Coltrane himself is so deadpan in his line delivery. Mercer is supposed to be the neighborhood kid who used to be close friends with Mae, maybe the two have a crush on each other, but have drifted apart in recent times, but still maintain a good relationship. But every line that Coltrane delivers is literally just “smile and put no emotion into the delivery of it.” There’s a scene where Mercer’s privacy is violated after Mae shows off his wooden sculptures of antlers and he wants to confront Mae about it. However, even here Coltrane doesn’t emote correctly. His character is being ridiculed and consistently harassed online by tens of millions of people calling him names and wrongfully accusing him of killing animals, and you’d swear each line delivery was more like he got hit by water balloon from a neighborhood brat. He was really good in BOYHOOD. It was one of my favorite movies of 2014, if not my favorite. He was a decent enough child actor at the time and he was fine enough toward the end of the movie, so… what happened here?!
What about Finn from FORCE AWAKENS?! He’s in this movie. He’s gotta be awesome, right?! NOPE!!! He is literally in this movie to do nothing. I’m not even kidding, his character is here to contribute nothing to the movie. Boyega plays Ty, the original creator of The Circle, whom I guess was muscled out by Bailey when he had his own ideas how the company should be handled. This is pure speculation, by the way; their relationship is never explained. Anyway, he then went off the grid and became notorious for not being able to be found by anyone, almost to the point where no one even knows his face. He acknowledges that The Circle blatantly violates privacy laws and he never wanted that for his company. Yeah, for a character who’s barely in this movie, he’s the only truly likable character. First time he shows up, he shares Cupcake wine with Mae. Second time, he leads her down dark, creepy hallways to areas where there’s not a single person in sight. Again, is this movie a closet horror film? These bits had some seriously rapey vibes to it. Essentially, this builds up to her being shown an abandoned subway that Bailey plans to fill with servers that will house all the information his programs will capture. This scene is supposed to spark skepticism in Mae. It never does, so this scene with Ty is completely pointless. But at least it left you with a ton of discomfort!
Ty does come back in the end and helps expose Bailey and Senator Stenton (Patton Oswalt) via a powerpoint presentation. Trust me, we’ll get to this exposure scene in a second, but you’re still sitting here wondering… couldn’t Ty do this himself awhile ago? Why did he need Mae to help him with this shit?
But now it’s time to explain this random-ass ending and how completely insane it is. After Mae has returned to The Circle in light of Mercer’s death, she decides to, what I can only guess, take over The Circle by exposing shady emails and correspondences from both Bailey and Stenton. Umm… when the hell did this become a plot-point? Where do I begin with this? First off, even though The Circle is a creepy place, it’s not filmed that way. We know this company has the best of intentions. But we’re never privy to the notion that either Bailey or Stenton are corrupt in any way. They’ve been pioneering the whole “Down with privacy” thing, but it’s only in this scene, as sporadic and senseless as you can imagine, the movie gives us our bad guys in the final sixty seconds of the movie. We don’t even know how these two men are corrupt, or what they did to warrant being exposed as villains. Nothing about this is explained. Mae just pulls the carpet out from under everyone and everyone watching during this seminar is completely on board with this insanity. They made this joke earlier in the movie, during Mae and Ty’s first meeting, where they say something like, “Everyone’s almost cult-happy here. ‘Drink the kool-aide’!” By the end of this movie, I was entirely convinced that this wasn’t a joke, but rather the very reason why any of this is allowed at all!
Is Hanks any good? Not… particularly. I mean one of his final lines is delivered funny. “We are so fucked,” and then proceeds to take a sip of his coffee, and I hesitate to say that he’s bad, but he’s put out much better performances and much like Watson, you can tell that he’s trying to deliver a good performance, but the terrible writing hinders his efforts tremendously and all you can think about is, “Tom, please tell us which producer has your family held hostage! Your fanatically loyal fanbase will take up arms and help you free them from captivity!” It’s heartbreaking. It really it.
But if you wanted something truly soul-crushing… if you wanted the penultimate proverbial stake driven through your beating heart… if Coltrane is the one actor not trying hard enough, then Bill Paxton is trying too damn hard. I’m not even kidding, this may arguably be the worst thing about the movie, depending on where you stand with the mountain-loads of issues already piling up. Paxton plays Mae’s father, Vinnie, who has cerebral palsy. Before I get into his amazing performance… are you kidding me?! In Paxton’s final movie, before he died of a stroke thanks to a botched surgery, he plays a character with cerebral palsy! I know these things aren’t in any way connected, but does anyone else get just a little extra depressed, and even a little frightened, by this? There’s something to say here; I just wouldn’t know what. But anyway, he does give us a fantastic show. I really believe that he has this illness. When he’s trying to lift a spoon up to his mouth, I really believe that he’s struggling with it. Even his speech patterns, how he almost has to put effort into saying words and complete sentences, it’s heartbreaking. I’m choosing to call it the saving grace of the film, as a good performance shouldn’t be ignored.
The cold, sad truth is that I can see how a good, challenging movie could be made out of this idea if it was written smart. The idea of allowing yourself no privacy so that someone is constantly keeping an eye out for you, for your safety and well-being. For the protection of others around you and holding you accountable for your actions, maybe even preventing possible wrong-doing before it’s even conceived. I even give the movie credit that it does touch upon these ideas somewhat. There’s a bit where Mae is talking to another woman who says that she inserted tracking chips in children all in the name of making sure that they’re always kept an eye on in case some asshole tries to kidnap the child. Should it happen, then the whereabouts of the child are known and even possibly preventing something worse from happening. Even the ending has a nice point. “Our goals are noble, but how we’re trying to achieve them is not the way to do it. We need to change how things are done here.” But the problem is that these ideas are never explored, or made to look like Edward Snowden’s personal night-terror, disguised by happy-peppy sunlight and smiling faces. The only legitimate positives of the film is that the acting from Watson, Hanks, Gillan, and certainly Paxton elevate the movie a little. None of this saves the movie, but there is effort from some of the actors. I do not recommend this movie in theaters. I do not recommend this as a rental. If there’s anything worth seeing, look for every scene featuring Paxton when scenes come out on Youtube, or something. But don’t waste your time seeing the movie as a whole. It’s not worth it.
My honest rating for THE CIRCLE: 2/5