The rapid advancement of technology has made it an integral part of our lives. Computers, tablets, and mobile phones have become essential tools in our daily routines, while social media continues to play a significant role in both our personal and private lives. It’s no wonder that cinema is increasingly exploring the various dilemmas surrounding these advancements.
However, it’s been the television series ‘Black Mirror’ that has, until now, best captured these themes. In essence, it’s a modern-day version of ‘The Twilight Zone’ from several decades ago. Undoubtedly, the success of ‘Black Mirror’ played a part in greenlighting ‘The Circle,’ an adaptation of Dave Eggers’ novel. Unfortunately, ‘The Circle’ turned out to be a disaster that even makes the worst episode of ‘Black Mirror’ seem excellent.
A Rocky Start…
To what extent are technological advancements truly marvelous? It’s clear that most, if not all, of them have tremendous potential for beneficial applications. However, by now we all know that it’s impossible to believe that every person is inherently good. This conflict lies at the heart of ‘The Circle.’ Or rather, it should have, if the movie wasn’t so incapable of delving into any aspect of the reflection it attempts to provoke.
One of the prime examples of this is the character played by John Boyega. Unfortunately, he is reduced by James Ponsoldt’s screenplay and Eggers himself to a mere narrative device. He generates a sense of mistrust in the protagonist but contributes nothing beyond that. In fact, his appearances seem to come out of nowhere, and his credibility plummets as the minutes go by.
It’s not Boyega’s fault, though. It’s puzzling why he accepted such an empty character. Perhaps the presence of Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in the cast played a role. However, Hanks barely manages to inject a bit of life into the film during his initial appearance, relying solely on his charisma. Afterwards, he sinks along with everything else, while the chemistry between him and Watson is nonexistent.
…And a Disappointing Ending
In fact, one of the major problems with ‘The Circle’ is that it once again demonstrates Emma Watson’s inability to carry a weak storyline. Admittedly, the naivety of the concept, its ridiculous development, and its embarrassing conclusion don’t help matters. However, Watson is the one who should infuse the story with humanity through her character, Mae, and make us understand her decisions. Instead, it’s failure upon failure across the board.
This brings us back to Ponsoldt and Eggers’ script, as it’s painfully apparent how little thought went into adding details to the initial premise. It’s an effort that destroys characters like Karen Gillan’s, without leading to fruitful outcomes. Although it’s clear from the start that there’s something amiss with the seemingly perfect company in the film, it’s not because of Ponsoldt’s direction but because of how obvious it is in certain scenes, such as the one where they set up the protagonist’s social media accounts.
Granted, even ‘Black Mirror’ has its share of obvious episodes, but even then, they managed to create tension or engage the audience in some way. Here, everything is so spoon-fed that any technological criticism the movie could offer loses its impact, while simultaneously damaging the more human aspects of the story, such as the development of friendship between Mae and Mercer, which was supposed to be a breakthrough role for Ellar Coltrane following his remarkable journey in ‘Boyhood.’
‘The Circle,’ a Complete Waste of Time
Along the way, there are some intriguing insights into privacy invasion that might prompt reflection on the subject. However, these ideas are more interesting for what they provoke outside the movie than what the movie itself conveys. ‘The Circle’ is predictable, painfully obvious, and timid in its exploration of the potential dangers associated with its premise falling into the wrong hands. Furthermore, there’s never a genuine sense that anything is at stake. Things simply unfold until they are resolved in a disgraceful and unsatisfying manner that drags the film down even further.
Now, I understand that everything I’ve mentioned so far might make ‘The Circle’ seem like an enormous disaster. However, I must clarify that while it is a constant disappointment, it’s not an outright disaster. It is simply an empty offering that tries desperately to appear intelligent and thought-provoking but ultimately falls short. That, in itself, is an absolute failure.
All in all, ‘The Circle’ is a waste of time as it fails to deliver on multiple fronts. As a technological dilemma, it’s insulting in its obviousness. As entertainment, it progressively loses its grip on the audience until it becomes utterly irrelevant. Its attractive cast is completely underutilized, and it lacks the compelling direction needed to establish an engaging direction. You can safely skip this one.
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