The Circle: A refreshing but unsettling look at Big Brother

The Circle offers an interesting but scary glimpse into what the future may hold.
The Circle
Director: James Ponsoldt
Stars: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan
Score: ★★½


Imagine a world where privacy is sacrificed in order to achieve complete transparency. A world in which anyone can see what you’re doing at any time.

And if you’ve lost touch with a friend, you can always find their exact location simply by logging on to a database.

This is the world of The Circle.

The company known as The Circle may well be Facebook, Google, and Tesla rolled into one. On steroids.

Mae, on joining the company, rises through the ranks at a rapid pace and is given the opportunity to take part in a new program, in which she is covered in tiny cameras so anyone in the world can see her and her family’s every action, all for the idea of total transparency.

While the movie is a refreshing take on the potential of a future Big Brother-type society, the first act is slow at times.

Rather than setting up a premise, it awkwardly tries to promote the Google College theme: There are cool new hip people to meet, parties to attend, new technology to marvel at, and occasional high grades to achieve.

It isn’t until the second act that the cogs and wheels begin to turn, and the movie really begins.

Emma Watson as Mae Holland, a bright and ambitious rookie starting her new role at The Circle.

If you enter the movie expecting a predictable narrative about privacy concerns, you’ll be given that. But the way the movie portrays Mae’s convictions about privacy and transparency, and her choices thereafter, comes as a complete surprise.

It’s clear that her ambition and resolute moral compass is what drives her to do what she thinks is best, but whether it’s right or not is a different question altogether.

Watson’s acting in the movie is neither superb nor awful, it is essentially Watson playing herself. Her expressions seem only half sincere and at times, even muted and unconvincing.

John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) also stars in the movie as the mysterious Ty, a character who drifts in and out of scenes. His sole purpose can be boiled down to providing exposition and staring disapprovingly from the back of theatres or at his phone.

Tom Hanks stars as the Elon Musk-style founder of The Circle.

His character, while providing Mae with occasional revelations, lacks enough time to be properly fleshed out. This is true for most of the supporting cast.

Mae’s parents – played by Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton – and her friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane) are woven in and out of the movie, and are represented especially well.

In a world of ambitious, young, and confident people who are keen to move the world forward towards a better place, their presence in the movie is a blunt reminder of what is being sacrificed.

The Circle is littered with clumsy lines and pointless scenes. The acting is subpar, which is a disappointment considering the quality of the cast.

However, what the movie lacks it makes up for by doing a commendable job of presenting the complex subject of complete global transparency from a refreshingly different — if  unsettling —perspective.