The Circle: Tom Hanks Wants You In His Cult

After an unexpected hiatus, here I am. Once again. With yet another film starring Emma Watson. (I want to figure out exactly how films are chosen for each movie theater, given we really only see well advertised flicks hit the big theaters like Regal and AMC. I’m in a taped off district that’s basically only Regals though, not to mention the free tickets there…)

Based on the novel of the same name, The Circle is about a twenty something named Mae Holland who gets a job at a fictional media group, eerily similar to the likes of Google and Apple. Things start out “exciting” for Mae as she embarks in a whirlwind career of being completely enveloped in social media, networking within The Circle’s gigantic campus, and soon rising up the ladder, much to the dismay of basically everyone else in her life. Things soon turn sour as Mae decides to go “transparent” after a well-covered accident she was involved in thanks to the Circle’s new technology, the See Change cameras quickly littering the entire planet (at least make them something other than plastic, good god). Upon facing a tragedy of horrific proportions, largely due to Mae’s easy manipulation by her colleagues, Mae (almost too soon) faces a crossroads on where to go next.

A couple things the film revolves around that I’d like to look into deeper:

  1. How the consequences of social media play into the plot of the story (and how well this fit in as well, despite my being extremely skeptical of anything that isn’t Black Mirror)
  2. How social media plays a HUGE role in people’s willingness to acquiesce to the most ridiculous of ideas.
  3. How companies like The Circle could easily grab power in today’s world. And of course,
  4. How all of this drove the plot right through bad acting and minor blips in logic.

First. We all know by now the immense responsibility every single one of us holds when we light up those cell phones. With crap going on Facebook today like people live streaming murders, filming our peers doing stupid and potentially dangerous shit for likes, and revealing too much about ourselves on social media, it’s a bit hard to go along with Mae’s assertion that “I am a better person when I am being watched”. If anything it’s the opposite. We are so much worse when it comes to hiding behind our computer screens. Or perhaps social media actually is a window to our private lives, and instead of becoming better, it just shows the truth, that we are always at some level of shittiness.

Second. Social media clearly plays a role in Mae’s willingness to do things she would not normally do, and I so so SO wish the film focused on this point more. With all the “100K retweets and I’ll go to prom with you” and the basic pressure to do stupid shit that we all may not necessarily really want to be a part of, the world of The Circle honestly doesn’t feel that far off. I mean, the stuff people will do to become internet famous gets more and more outrageous by the minute. For God’s sake, DONALD TRUMP IS PRESIDENT. The world of The Circle is already here, just in a slightly different version.

Third. An important point in The Circle (and you probably didn’t notice it) was Annie’s subplot. Annie’s storyline was almost more interesting than the main plot. Annie starts out in the film as happy, excited to work at the Circle, and completely thriving in her hectic career. She is Mae, just a few months ahead of her. While she works in R&D or whatever (who cares), it’s easier to spot how she spirals out of control. She soon finds that the company is entering dangerous territory, with Mae’s pitch that maybe governments require this technology of citizens. And while yes, many countries require everyone to take part in the election cycle, wear seat belts, don’t drink and drive, etc., the storage of every single person’s information becomes totalitarian. Once the company has access to every single person’s info, there’s no limit to what they can do next. Force everyone to use a specific healthcare plan. Buy only a specific brand of car. Ration food a certain way, maybe. I’m no political science person, but it sounds a lot like Soviet Russia to me…

Fourth. the main point I would like to drive here is that this plot isn’t like most films we have heard of. It’s almost like the prequel to The Hunger Games, or another shitty dystopian novel-turned-film. I think the biggest selling point of The Circle has to be that if we aren’t careful, this could end up the beginning of our future. How unnerving it is to watch as a singular kayaker is approached by several drones intently spying on her? How scary is it that everything can be filmed without your knowledge, or that going transparent means that everyone who wants to can see you whenever they please? While some of the acting was subpar for a film that has Tom Hanks in it, the selling point, that technology will be the beginning of our demise, is unmistakeable and unquestionable.

Score: 8/10


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