In my estimation, social media basically has four types of users:
• The Gregarious Pulse Maven who generates posts about every waking moment of their day;
• The Fair Weather Reporter who drops in every so often to update friends and family on significant life events such as promotions, graduations, births, and surgeries;
• The Activist who posts primarily on issues of social justice, politics, and global events; and
• The Neutral Ultraist who refuses to succumb to the bondage of social media and technology in their personal lives and shuns social media entirely.
The Circle wants to remodel all of those users into one, unified collective that gleefully operates in full transparency.
Every thought, every expression, every activity, every binary digit of information is collected from every human on the planet all day, every day through the use of undisclosed marble-sized cameras, cellphones, and even sensors nestled within their bodies.
Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) – the Ted talk guru and CEO of The Circle – insists on saving the world by demanding unfettered access to every individual's social, financial, communication, and health history based on his philosophy that "secrets are lies" and "knowledge is a right.” Unfortunately for this film, what could be a profound new critique of privacy in the digital-age blunders under the weight of its own hubris.
Enter Mae (Emma Watson), who goes from working in a wearisome smalltown call center to The Circle's urban upscale call center. Introverted and private, Mae devotes most of her waking hours to caring for her parents (played by Glenne Headly and the late Bill Paxton) and relaxing at intimate gatherings with neighbors and friends.
However, her colleagues at The Circle are concerned that Mae is not integrating all of her social media sites, emails, banks, friends, and healthcare information with The Circle's social site. Mae grapples with assimilation, but after a misdemeanor boating accident, Mae is grateful that The Circle was watching. She agrees to be the guinea pig for the SeeChange program that, through a tiny camera on her shirt, allows every person on the planet to watch her daily activities and provide commentary.
Mae soon becomes an avid supporter of all-things-Circle and suggests that every American be required to open a Circle account to stop duplication of government services like paying for traffic tickets, voting, and paying taxes. She is bumped up to the Inner Circle – the elite think tank for the company.
Fans of Emma Watson: While Watson has not received rave reviews for much of her work since the Potter series – if you are an ardent fan – you will be excited to see her add another valid role to her profile.
Fans of Thrillers: Unfortunately, this movie is not thrilling or inspiring. This film provides no revelations or deliberations to support or oppose social media transparency. As with any new program, device, or service, there exists the thin line between the altruistic intention and the sinister perversion. "The Circle" fails to provide those coercive arguments and treads through insipid waters. There are no daring intellectual confrontations that will impugn or vindicate viewers.
Action Adventure Fans: There is no action and very little adventure.
What is most exceptional about the film is how it debilitates a team of veteran actors. Though breakout "Star Wars" star John Boyega plays a character who is central – dare I say, essential – in the novel, he is reduced to an inconsequential, brooding character in the film. As well, Emma Watson scowls a lot, grins, and is disappointingly one-dimensional.
Nearly 20 years ago, we watched Tom Hanks talk to a volleyball for 2-hours, but in "The Circle,” it's almost excruciating to watch his guru-gone-scoundrel.
Fans of the Novel: You will be pleased to know that the author of the novel, David Eggers, wrote the screenplay along with director, James Ponsoldt. Unfortunately, Eggers chose to circumvent the novel's ending for the film that makes the finale nearly unintelligible.
There are plenty of films and television shows which address the benefits and perils of integrative technology espoused by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Unfortunately, "The Circle" is not one of them. The film is dedicated to Bill Paxton.
2 out of 4 Miners
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