May-15-2017

Reel Snippet – The Circle

Synopsis: Mae Holland (Emma Watson) lives a fairly rudimentary life, taking care of her sick father Vinnie (Bill Paxton) with her mother Bonnie (Glenne Headly) and hanging with her ex-boyfriend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane). But everything changes when her old friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her a job at the innovative tech company called the Circle. There, she is wowed by the promises for the future company head Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) promises, but finds herself at odds when she meets Ty (John Boyega), who has insights into the Circle’s dealings and knows that their promises could compromise data integrity and privacy. Still, Mae keeps rising in the ranks and she finds herself at a crossroads between a bold new world or a comfortable and secure, yet ordinary one.

Review: The Circle was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. The tension between privacy vs. convenience has been going on ever since Facebook blew up, but I don’t remember seeing it done this well. It highlights the dangers of being too connected, but it also showcases the benefits and all the good it could do. It doesn’t come down firmly on one side or the other, instead showing both viewpoints and indicating that people in power are more of the problem.

Speaking of which, I love Tom Hanks in his Zuckerberg-Jobs-esque role, where he comes across as everyone’s cool uncle while pedaling his ideas. His charisma is so magnetic that everything he’s saying sounds kind of reasonable. That’s how harmful and unjust policies come to be in real life, by putting such a good face on it that it seems perfectly reasonable. Something like that’s never going to get off the ground if it looks like the idea itself is twirling an evil mustache, something the squatters in the White House are coming to realize. In short, Hanks is the best thing about this movie because he brings that human spark that only he can deliver.

The other actors do fine as well, balancing quite the range of emotions. Emma Watson is very good as the leading lady and sold a lot of the emotional scenes with a very human edge. That said, it seems that her greatest enemy was not the establishment, but her American accent as she kept slipping into her native British tones here and there. Karen Gillan and John Boyega are great as always, though I wish they were around longer. The one actor that didn’t turn in a great performance was Ellar Coltrane, which is surprising because he was the fantastic star of Boyhood. Here, though, he’s super monotone and it really sticks out against the sea of nuanced performances.

But the ending… oh, the ending… I don’t remember the last time a movie went out on such a gutsy, ambiguous note. I’m not talking about the climax, by the way, I’m talking about the last few shots where we really have to ask ourselves… did things really turn out better? Did Mae turn truly things around or did she fall into the same traps that the others did before? Is this technology being used responsibly? Can it be used responsibly? All this and more… will not be answered because you have to make up your own damn mind.

I’m honestly baffled by the critical thrashing this movie’s been getting because I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated it. It puts forth a question we’ve been needing to ask ourselves for a while because it’s not the government taking our privacy away, it’s us willingly giving it up for convenience. It’s not black and white either because these conveniences can also drastically improve our quality of life. Speaking of life, this film does a great job in capturing the realities of the Internet, right down to the borderline inane webspeak that Mae’s followers send to her. I personally really enjoyed this and I recommend you check it out for yourselves.

Fun Tidbit: This is the last film by Bill Paxton, who died earlier this year. It is sad, to be sure, but it makes the scenes where he’s suffering from his illness… a bit hard to watch.


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