With the advent of information technology, the debate about privacy protection has raised numerous questions concerning law, policy making and moral principles. The disclosures of Edward Snowden have proven that privacy threats are genuine. The internet and social media are also being frequently used for global electronic surveillance programs.
The 21st century cinema is thrilled to cover stories of global scandals and the risks associated with the use of advanced technology. The various techno-thrillers and sci-fi dramas, with near-future science imaginary tales have already covered plentiful digital conspiracy and apocalyptic stories.
The Spectacular Now (2013) and The End Of The Tour (2015) famed film director and screenwriter, James Ponsoldt’s latest venture is also about the digital age and its consequences. The Circle is based on Dave Eggers’s dystopian novel (2013) of the same name. It is concerned with the future of surveillance gadgets and pseudo-leftists’ hallucinations and cult inclinations that caused a change in amalgamating information and behaviours of the real and virtual world.
The film tells the story of a young woman Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson, who with the help of her successful college friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets a customer relations job at The Circle, a leading social media enterprise. Its co-founders, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt), devise a matchless concept for their business’s bright future.
The concept revolves around the innovative invention of a concealed eyeball-sized webcam to achieve ‘absolute transparency and knowledge’. The idea becomes an instant hit among the tech enthusiasts and social media idealists.
Encouraged by Bailey, ambitious Holland involves herself in the program’s experiment to get ‘perfect transparency’ by sharing her own life with the whole world. Paying no heed to all the wrongdoings, she even formulates some of the significant axioms; ‘secrets are lies’, ‘sharing is caring’, and ‘privacy is theft’ and so on.
The rest of the plot hastily covers the pros and cons of hi-tech devices, surveillance, privacy breach and electronic espionage of individual rights.
Ponsoldt, along with Eaggers as a screenwriter, tried to build a light rebuking and advice giving yet entertaining fiction for the purpose of modern social media harassment. The Circle can be regarded as a weak satire with a few jocular moments. However, if you want to take it as a wholly thoughtful thriller, it’s quite impossible to digest its imaginary plot with useless hotchpotch. The level of paranoid fantasy is so low that it makes the movie an unpleasant bizarre tech thriller.
The Circle is never completely as smooth or alarming. Its story line gives the worn out tale of a wrongly used technology a not-so-nerve-wracking surprise. In fact, the plot moves aimlessly here and there, struggling to enfold the virtual social life and dangers of the surveillance society. On the other hand, the story also tries to maintain the life of a tech woman and her relations with her parents and friends during hectic routines. This kind of amalgamation becomes annoying for the audiences.
Watson, who has been recently applauded for her brilliant performance in Beauty And The Beast (2017), clearly battles with her boring and dull character. She is generally convincing as a protagonist but lacks the deepness of Holland’s personality of a young techie and remained incapable to craft the diverse transformations of the character’s temperament.
The two-time Academy Award winner, Hanks, is persuasive in portraying the treacherous social media tycoon. Despite an antagonist, he plays his role very casually and that is the reason why Bailey is convincing. Hanks tried his best to satisfy the viewers as a charismatic and witty chief executive.
All in all, the adaptation of the novel results in an utterly substandard film. It lacks continuity and mystery, thus failing to keep the audience interested. The director and screenwriter’s so-called symbolism is amply hazy and the film just lacks meaning. The screenplay appears flawed, old-fashioned and ripped off from past movies with no edifying climax. Watson and Hanks try to add a bit of hilarity, but again, nothing can save The Circle from the circle of destruction.