Review Legacy

The Circle (2017)

I’m not sure that The Circle ever had any bite. But it certainly doesn’t in 2022. Pretty much every major headline has undercut the film’s satire as not a world-gone-crazy fantasy, but everyday life.

For starters, the big Orwellian nightmare of a video camera plugged into every house, with video feeds hooking up every person on the planet in an instant became our de facto communication in the COVID era. Massive data and security breaches are the rule, not the exception. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg have more-or-less-explicitly outed themselves as Bond villains, flushing away any of the lingering Steve Jobs residue of tech CEOs as our hip, sweater-wearing amigos with no agenda except to share their cool tech.

So anytime The Circle tries to make some grand revelation — “would you believe… big tech is selling your data without your knowledge???” — it’s almost laughably tame.

Every plot point the movie falls somewhere on the spectrum between “goofy” and “underwhelming” — from the accidental murder of an off-the-grid buddy to a confusing thread about John Boyega as the semi-secret rogue inventor of some invasive technology. The single most regrettable moment is probably the scene where Emma Watson’s Mae accidentally catches her parents doing the nasty on a video feed. I’m not sure what the right tone for that scene could possibly have been, but the half-hearted earnest shock we get is definitely not it.

Watson’s American accent has only barely improved from the nightmare of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Boyega and Karen Gillan are underused and pointless; Ellar Coltrane gets more screentime than either, which is a mistake. Tom Hanks does his best to give the CEO villain role some gravity, but it’s such a confused and underwritten part that there’s only so much to be saved.

I’m not sure where James Ponsoldt’s career is headed at this point. The Spectacular Now is remarkably steady-handed and incisive where The Circle just kind of floats along in narrative confusion. Wafts of tension and visual grace come and go, but infrequently enough that it feels like a game of chance. What a boring movie.

Is It Good?

Not Good (2/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.

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