Friday, July 14, 2017

The Circle Review

'Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better'

When Mae (Emma Watson) lands a job at an influential and on the pulse tech company called the Circle through her friend Annie (Karen Gillan), she soon discovers the company's agendas on personal data sharing and tracking are more sinister than they first appeared.

The Circle premiered on Netflix on June 30th after a short-lived run in US cinemas that saw it gross just $20.5 million up on an $18 million budget. With this in mind, a UK cinema release doesn't look to be on the cards for James Ponsoldt's The Circle. It remains to be seen if this will be the way of the future for films that underperform at the box-office as a means of tapping into a more niche audience.

It's ironic that Mae's self-confessed fear is unfulfilled potential because this film reeks of it. The Circle emits distinctly Black Mirror-esque vibes but fails to make an impact. Set in a world not so dissimilar to our own, it toys with topical issues of privacy and data protection and takes a cautionary tale stance on these issues without sending a clear message other than oversharing = bad.

It doesn't help that despite its impressive cast, performance-wise there isn't much here to shout about. Particularly wooden here is Ellar Coltrane as Mae's technology-averse childhood friend. Sceptical about how the company's motives and ethos are affecting Mae, he urges her to quit with an ultimatum that costs them their friendship. It's never made clear why Mercer so adamantly wants to remain off-grid, nor is John Boyega's enigmatic Ty, the creator of The Circle now keeping his head down, ever really explored. It's these gaps in character development and unexplored avenues that really let the narrative down.

At the end of it all, The Circle leaves us with a lot of loose narrative threads, sparking with potential like disconnected wires. It makes you wonder if Ponsoldt intended for us to invest in the characters at all, or if they're just conveniently there to drive the plot, thin though it is. With a promising concept and a stellar cast, The Circle culminates in a shallow and lacklustre look at topical and prevalent issues facing today's social media-driven society and disappointingly fails to deliver anything new or original to the circuit board.