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Review of The Circle (movie)


I'll keep this short because although the reasons this film fails are many and complex, the end result is fairly easy to state. Don't watch this movie. It's worth neither your time nor money. 

Emma Watson as Mae Holland with a plausible reaction to watching this film.

It disappoints me to have to write the above because I did have high-hopes for this work. I read the novel when I learned who would be starring in the movie version of the book. Having read the book I thought The Circle was one of those rare works which might work really well as a movie.

Sadly, this isn't the movie I imagined.

It's not for lack of trying at the outset. The producers were able to bring in undeniable talent for this film. Tom Hanks in the semi-villain role Eamon Bailey, Emma Watson as the trusting and ambitious Mae, and half a dozen actors and actresses you've heard of before. The story is timely (although already rapidly fading in topicality - the half-life of near-future technofiction is not long) and the satire of the novel was gleefully savage. This should have worked much better.

And for the first half of the movie it mostly delivers on its promises. Then it just collapses.

I think the biggest of many, many problems, is that the producers got cold feet about the larger point of the novel. This is not a story of how a digital dystopia is averted. It is a story of how well-meaning and sympathetic people can participate in and popularize a highly frightening strain of tyranny. Mae, in particular, becomes very hard to like as the novel wears on. And maybe that's a flaw in the book, to be honest, but it's also the path that makes the most sense given Egger's concept. To maneuver things very early on to keep our sympathy with Mae, the script introduces all sorts of distortions into the movie - both making the menace of The Circle more overt and reducing Mae's culpability. Then the final scene adds just one more layer of stupidity to the already collapsed soufflé of suck.

Seriously, I could go on but what would be the point? The movie is bad. It starts bad, gets worse, and then to complete the circle, finishes with the most feeble attempt at back-tracking and story rebooting possible. It just doesn't work.
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