REVIEW: ‘The Circle’ Is A Directionless Waste Of Talented Performers

It’s always surprising and disappointing seeing a film squander a plethora of talent in its cast. “The Circle” is one of those types of movies.

The picture centers on a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson) who gets a job at the world’s leading computer technology/social networking company, the Circle. Headed by a pair by the names of Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Stenton (Patton Oswalt), the Circle operates at a massive facility that largely provides anything that a person could really want.

As Mae settles into her new role, though, she starts to notice some things that seem off. This thought process is only increased when she comes into contact with a lead developer named Ty (John Boyega), who informs her of some shady operations. At the same time, though, Mae also becomes a person of interest as she starts coming up with new ideas that actually benefit the company.

The most glaring flaw with “The Circle” is its tone. According to the Internet Movie Database, the picture is classified as a sci-fi thriller/drama. However, it’s also come to my attention that the book the flick was based off of read more like a satire. In the movie’s case, a tone more in line with the book would have fit much better.

Everything from the script to the acting seemed to have the movie play out in an over-serious manner. This works continuously against the movie as scenes are often played out to put an audience on edge when the stakes aren’t particularly high. The film doubles down on this at the end of the second act when an event happens that’s supposed to be tragic but comes across as rather laughable.

The film’s story bounces around in quite an odd manner, too. Subplots get brought up, then they’re dropped and what’s worse is that Mae’s character arc doesn’t exactly have much direction. At some points it seems like she wants to go against the company and at others she’s all in to support it. However, this appears on screen less like a character torn between two options and more like a film that was trying to cover its bases in telling its “big brother is watching” message (which is displayed with no subtlety by the way).

Staying on Mae’s character, it also didn’t help that Emma Watson gave a less than stellar performance here. The character she plays has parents who are facing difficult medical issues and when this is on screen Watson makes some of the emotions convincing. Yet for much of the runtime, she comes off as rather dull, delivering a mostly blank performance.

As for the supporting cast, Hanks has enough charm and Oswalt has enough screen presence to get by, but they’re not very memorable. Boyega, who was previously seen in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” is somewhat wasted here, too, both because he’s not particularly given much to do and his ‘big moment’ in the film’s climax is not very explored.

In some ways, “The Circle” reminds me of “Transcendence” from 2014. An over dramatic, convoluted sci-fi that has a message that’s already put to film multiple times. “The Circle” is quite the same, from the tone to the story to the acting, it’s a lackluster product. 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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