When Mae is hired to work for the world's largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company's founder, Eamon Bailey, to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes, begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family and that of humanity.
Social Media involvement in political manipulation? Don't be ridiculous!
Set in the near future "The Circle" tells a horror story of the social media age involving an omnipotent American corporate, pitched somewhere between being Facebook-like and Google-like (note, lawyers, I just said "like"!) Emma Watson ("Beauty and the Beast") plays young intern Mae who, partly through the aid of family friend Annie (Karen Gillan, "Guardians of the Galaxy", "Doctor Who") but mostly through her own aptitude, lands a foothold job in customer services for the company. With the lush corporate campus fast becoming home, Mae is quickly singled out as having "executive potential" by the charismatic CEO Bailey (Tom Hanks, "Bridge of Spies") and his more taciturn sidekick Stenton (US comedian Patton Oswalt).
Progressively brainwashed into believing the company's intrusive snooping (a favourite motto is "Secrets are Lies") is all for 'the greater good', Mae champions the cause until a tragedy rocks her world and her company beliefs to the core.
Whenever I watch a film I tend to form my own opinion first before checking out what the 'general public' on IMDb think. In this case, I must confess to being a bit surprised at our divergence of views: a lot of people clearly hated this movie whereas I confess that I found it very entertaining. Certainly with the alleged role of Russia in influencing elections around the world via social media, the film is most certainly topical! Many reviewers seemed quite upset that Watson's character is such a 'doormat', in that her views are so easily manipulated by the corporate machine. But not every woman – as indeed every man – can or should be a Joan of Arc style role model in every film: why should they be?
I actually found her indoctrination into "the Circle way" as quite convincing, especially a creepy scene where two corporate lackies (Cho Smith and Amir Talai) say that they're not checking up on Mae's social life, but . Watson enjoys extending her post-Potter repertoire well, but the talented John Boyega ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens") is completely wasted in his role as Ty; the Wozniak-like genius behind The Circle's technology. The script gives him very little to do other than stand around and look grumpy.
The film is sad in being the last movie appearance of the great Bill Paxton ("Apollo 13") who plays Mae's sick father and who died of complications following heart surgery two months before the film's release (the film is dedicated "For Bill"). Tragically, Mae's mother in the film, actress Glenn Headly ("Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") also died suddenly at the age of 62, also due to heart problems, a couple of months after the film's release. It's surprising the film doesn't have a "curse of The Circle" tag on it.
The film was directed by James Ponsoldt, who also wrote the screenplay with novel-writer Dave Eggers ("Away We Go"). I particularly liked the on-screen use of captioning (posts) which was reminiscent to me of last year's "Nerve", a B-movie film I rated highly that also had a string social media theme.
While the ending of the film is a bit twee – a movie definition of "being hoisted by your own petard" – it's overall a thought provoking piece sufficiently close to the truth as to where society is going to raise the hairs on your neck.
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