The Circle (M)

In a word: Intriguing

The Circle

Tom Hanks stars as co-founder Eamon Bailey in The Circle.


"The performances are solid if unremarkable...but it’s the intrigue and social commentary of this film that make it worth watching."

A play on the cult following today’s tech giants seem to attract among the young and talented, The Circle is a part-Truman Show/part-The Island examination of just how far people will go in sacrificing their beliefs to belong to something.

Adapted from a novel by US writer Dave Eggers, the story centres on the journey of the somewhat naïve Mae Holland (played by Emma Watson) who, thanks to her friend Annie (Karen Gillan), finds a job at the world-beating tech company known simply as The Circle.

At first Mae seems to find the way in which the employees blindly follow every utterance of Eamon Bailey (played by Tom Hanks), the company’s innovative - and wealthy - co-founder and staunch advocate for an end to privacy, rather off-putting. After she is rescued from a dangerous situation thanks to tracking data which could pinpoint her location, however, Mae becomes an acolyte, agreeing to become the first person in the world to be totally ‘transparent’ and have every aspect of her life (well, 99 per cent of it) able to be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. 

With the prospect of better medical treatment for her sick father (after all, The Circle looks after its own), she even convinces her parents - played by late actors Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton - to join in (they only back out after they are captured on film in a behind-closed-doors scenario). Mae, meanwhile, continues to spiral deeper into The Circle until a meeting with a mysterious employee (played by John Boyega) seems to bring back some of her earlier questions.

Throughout the film, director James Ponsoldt manages to maintain a sense that despite the glossy exterior, there’s something rotten at the heart of The Circle, and it’s that sense of forboding which gives the film its power (even if, ultimately, the ending falls a little flat). That, and the way in which the film references the culture of today’s US tech giants, from the company campuses (this one is in a circle, of course) and the blurring of the lines between the work and home life of their employees to the stage theatrics of the late Steve Jobs when launching the latest Apple innovation.

The performances are solid if unremarkable – Hanks does a workmanlike job, Patton Oswalt has fun with the role of the creepy COO, and Karen Gillan’s overwrought Annie is noteworthy but one can’t quite shake the sense that Watson is playing a part. But it’s the intrigue and social commentary of this film that make it worth watching.

It’s a film that will either confirm your wildest conspiracy theories about the big tech companies or one that you’ll dismiss out of hand as pure fantasy. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.