The End of the Tour was one of my favorite movies of 2015. Director James Ponsoldt was able to bring two equally great performances together to create an incredible character study. Now, two years later, Ponsoldt has been integrated into the Hollywood system and brought us The Circle, a film that proves that, even with Hollywood breathing down his neck, he can make a good film.
The Circle stars Emma Watson as Mae, a woman who takes a job at The Circle, the headquarters of a massive tech company headed by the character played by Tom Hanks that strives to integrate itself into every aspect of daily life, in order to get medical help for her sick father. While there, Mae meets a few people and finds out that the company is also pushing for total elimination of personal privacy. I don’t want to reveal any more of the plot, as it would get into spoiler territory, but, needless to say, there are a lot of twists and turns.
Jumping into The Circle, I thought it would be an average “technology is bad” propaganda film, but I was surprised that it remained relatively neutral. The film brings up many pros and cons as to what would happen if the technologies presented were implemented. While there were a few points where it got a tad bit preachy, it also felt as if, in these parts, there was a deeply hidden satirical layer that was nearly impossible to detect.
There are a few flaws here and there. For example, the advertisements would leave you to believe that this is a psychological thriller, but it is not psychological nor a thriller, but rather a drama. Mae’s motivations are quizzical; despite having increasingly bad things happen to those around her while in The Circle, she chooses to ignore them and only seems to focus on the good. The most obvious flaw in the entire film, the flaw that I guarantee every single film critic in the world will bring up, is the ending. Without spoiling anything, the ending is so abrupt and anticlimactic that it ruins any sort of tone that the film created.
Despite this, the film still manages to be good. It’s safe to say that Tom Hanks is good, but most of the supporting cast, especially Ellar Coltrane and Bill Patxon, are great. The second act of the film is fantastic, and I would recommend seeing it just for that part. James Ponsoldt is able to provide a subtleness to the film, adding imagery to suggest the outside world’s opinions of the events inside The Circle. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique and composer Danny Elfman are also great as always, creating the tone of the film in a way that no other people would be able to do for this film.
In short, I went into this movie expecting a below average episode of Black Mirror, but the good and the bad balanced out, and what we get is a slightly above average episode of Black Mirror.