The Circle: spookily underrated 8/10

Robert Pimm
Robert Pimm

Is the movie “The Circle” any good?  Yes it is.  So why did critics pan it so universally?

There is something weird about how films are rated.  Is it a conspiracy?  I’m beginning to wonder.

Readers of this blog will know that I decry conspiracy theories.  But I recently saw two films (movies) I thought were dire and one I enjoyed.  The first two were Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Rotten Tomatoes rating 82%, certified fresh) and The Lego Batman Movie (Rotten Tomatoes rating 91%, certified fresh).  The one I enjoyed was The Circle (Rotten Tomatoes rating 17%, rotten).

In the likely event that you haven’t heard much about the movie, the plot revolves around likeable young ingenue Mae (Emily Watson) who joins “The Circle”, a fusion of Apple, Google and Facebook whose HQ is a familiar-looking massive circular building outside San Francisco staffed by enthusiastic youthful tech types and led by the dodgy Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks – yep, playing a bad guy, hooray!).

Bailey, in a series of Steve Jobs-type appearances in front of an adulatory band of employees, launches cutely named new products: “TrueYou” – a single verifiable ID; “SeeChange” – allowing tiny cameras to proliferate recording everything which happens; or “SoulSearch”, designed to find people even if they don’t want to be found.  Further iterations include plans to require membership of The Circle to vote, comprehensive medical insurance and ingesting tracker devices which also monitor your health.  The Circle markets these innovations brilliantly, and Mae becomes a figurehead for the firm and its all-encompassing aspirations, including allowing herself to become “transparent” by wearing a camera and health monitor all the time.

Predictably, things go wrong.

The Circle is far from perfect.  Some of the plot devices are clunky, particularly a Princess Diana-style car chase, and the sudden ending has the feel of a much-reshot sequence struggling unsuccessfully to find an outcome which audiences will like.  But I liked the look and feel of the movie, particularly the way the company gradually takes over the life of Mae and other employees; and was baffled to find it had been universally panned on release.

In fact a conspiracy theorist would suspect that the big social media companies which increasingly dominate our lives and depend on us giving them all our data for free to make massive profits had done their best to ensure that The Circle bombed.  17%?  No way.

I was also puzzled that the Rotten Tomatoes review site has no quotations from the film, even though I thought it had some rather fine lines, such as “Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better”; “Secrets are stealing”; or “I’m tired of the difference between public and private”.

Disclaimer: I find the power of big data disturbing and recently wrote about it in my blog Read it now, watch it fast: scary, scarier, scariest.  I’m also intrigued by the interface between digital and real life and the extent to which social media, or the Internet itself, makes our lives better (my blog The Internet: 7 reasons why it will destroy civilisation).

I shall return to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and The Lego Batman Movie in a future blog, Why sequels suck.  Watch this space.

For: entertaining and occasionally eerie exploration of bad places technology can take us.  Some great lines and concepts.

Against: a feeble ending and occasionally clunky, so only 8/10.

P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, you can friend me on Facebook or sign up for my weekly newsletter (you can unsubscribe anytime you wish).


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One Response

  1. Die lauwarmen Reaktionen auf The Circle kann ich mir nur so erklären, dass ein Grossteil des Publikums , inclusive Kritiker, sich an die Macht dieser Internetkonzerne gewöhnt hat und nichts Beunruhigendes mehr darin findet.

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