Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega
Release Date: August 1, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 6/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
When Mae (Watson) 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 (Hanks), 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 all of humanity.
Based upon the international best-selling novel, ‘The Circle’ follows the young and talented Mae (Watson) who after years of struggling to get by working mediocre jobs has finally been given the opportunity to work at what is unarguably the biggest company around, and with the most to offer its employees. After being hired and beginning with standard customer support, Mae soon begins to more actively embrace the circle’s family like nature and becomes passionately involved in the program. Working directly with its higher ups at the company (Hanks, Oswalt) everything in her life only continues to greatly improve until one painful event causes her to have some reservations. Now fully immersed in the circle’s community, Mae finally begins to understand the true nature of the company and the scope of their influence, meaning she’ll have to decide whether to let herself fully become part of the circle or attempt to claw her way out.
Directed by James Ponsoldt (the director of 2015’s outstanding ‘The End of the Tour’) from a screenplay he additionally co-wrote with Dave Eggers which was based upon Eggers’ own novel of the same name respectively, Ponsoldt does a pretty solid job at the helm guiding ‘The Circle’ along, although the uneven pacing can still be distracting in many sequences. The film definitely benefits a great deal from the noteworthy cast that features a number of well known individuals that consistently help to keep things moving along swiftly, including Emma Watson (the Harry Potter franchise), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Patton Oswalt (Odd Thomas), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), along with Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy), Glenne Headly (Don Jon), the late Bill Paxton (Apollo 13) and more.
‘The Circle’ offers a disturbingly realistic tale of the modern age of technology we so often wholeheartedly embrace and the possible scope at which even a privately owned and operated company’s reach can excel with the right tools and individuals at their disposal. For the most part it’s an intriguing, occasionally somewhat tense and fairly enjoyable exploration of one young woman’s dream job which quickly reveals itself as something far more than she anticipated and subsequently takes viewers along with her in an attempt to understand and consider this massively powerful company’s purpose and whether it’s in fact something she wants to be a part of. Unfortunately, ‘The Circle’ definitely falters in a number of ways and the often sloppy delivery of some scenes, in addition to a pace that never seems to find its rhythm and regularly feels like it’s struggling to find its way through until finally wrapping with a somewhat lackluster conclusion. On the plus side, the film also benefits in many ways by talented director James Ponsoldt’s capable guidance which helps to keep things from ever reaching the level of horrid, as does the collection of talented individuals comprising the cast including Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and a number more. It’s certainly far from perfect or one of the year’s best films, but ‘The Circle’ does manage to keep viewers entertained for the majority of its duration and offers an undeniably powerful and thought provoking storyline. Fans of either the book and/or the talented cast members will probably want to give it a whirl in order to make up their own minds, and albeit imperfect, it’s also far from terrible and likely worth the time of anyone already at all interested in the film to begin with.
Overall, ‘The Circle’ provides a thoroughly entertaining look at an unarguably realistic scenario and one girl’s journey into that world and the decisions she must make as the full scope of things are revealed. It’s a clever and well constructed idea and offers an enjoyable enough experience, yet it also certainly suffers some faults, particularly its inconsistent pacing which never seems to find its desired pattern. The capable direction from James Ponsoldt at the helm and a powerful cast led by Emma Watson and Tom Hanks definitely helps to improve on some of the flaws and keep things fairly decent where they could have been otherwise disastrous. I would recommend those who enjoyed the book, are big fans of the cast members, or are already at least somewhat intrigued to give the film a shot, it’s likely to at least prove itself worth your time.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Circle’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks great as a whole and delivers a sharp, detailed and colorful presentation throughout with no notable faults to be found within. It holds up quite well even during the darker and heavily populated moments and never allows anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a highly capable high definition video presentation from Lionsgate boosted by a more than sufficient bitrate that should largely please.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack provides a clean, sharp and occasionally somewhat aggressive audio presentation throughout. It often takes advantage of all five available channels in order to immerse the viewer within the music and to send plenty of crowd chatter and other fitting activity throughout the various speakers, and never causing any dialogue or other auditory elements which may be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a solid 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that delivers in every way required of it and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Circle’ includes a few worthwhile extras in the way of some behind the scenes Featurettes that offer behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus more, including a heartfelt dedication to late actor Bill Paxton. The included Featurettes are: ‘No More Secrets: Completing The Circle’ (running approximately 31 minutes in length), ‘The Future Won’t Wait: Design and Technology’ (running approximately 11 minutes) and ‘A True Original: Remembering Bill Paxton’ (approximately 14 minutes).