I know, I know… couchpotato is a website for TV but Emma Watson’s latest vehicle, The Circle is so like an episode of Black Mirror that I just had to put pen to paper…
The Circle begins well – showing the hum-drum existence of twenty-something Mae Holland in her dead-end customer service job while her parents struggle to pay their bills. To make matters worse, Mae’s dad, played by the late, great Bill Paxton, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.
Enter BFF and fifth most Scottish person in movies since Begby, Sick Boy, Renton and Mike Myer’s Fat Bastard, Annie (Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan) who has secured an interview at her Facebook or Google-esque company The Circle.
Mae quickly succeeds gaining high percentages and smiley emojis yet something doesn’t feel right in her brave new world.
At a series of TED talks to his employees, The Circle’s boss, and Mark Zuckerburg stand-in, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) announces his plan to deploy miniature cameras across the world to make everyone, citizens, police, protesters and politicians accountable for their actions. The idea being you are a more humane when you are being watched…
Mae becomes the media darling face of the Cupertino-based company, a celebrity of Truman Burbank proportions, at one point even having her own woman in a stolen boat vs naure plot contrivence with a non-sensical San Francisco Bay vs Kayak moment.
On stage, at her own keynote event, Mae urges millions of Circle users to locate a criminal, they do so within minutes but when pushed to use the same tech to find her ex-beau, he is driven off a bridge in a frenzied drone/public turned paparazzi chase.
The movie’s message – that ultimate power (even social justice warriorship) corrupts absolutely means Mae turns the tables on boss Eamon and his underling Patton Oswalt by making all of thier records and secret e-mails public.
Unfortunately, The Circle ends with one of the most underwhelming finalés I’ve seen in recent months. Rushed, sloppy and obviously cobbled-together in the edit suite, this ending was all director James Pondsoldt could offer to try and fix what must have been even bigger problems.
And it was this ending, together with an over reliance on ADR and a few contrivances, that show how far the final product was from the writer’s original vision.
Yet before it all goes wrong, The Circle expertly raises some brilliantly thought-provoking ideas on privacy, data collection, storage and protection plus transparency… plus, of course social media frenzy feeding, celebrity and cyberstalking (for want of a better word).
The chase sequence in which Circle users track down Mae’s ex-beau-turned-off-the-grid friend Mercer is so likely to come true that it was like a live stream into Lady Galadriel’s mirror and it’s these prophetic visions that surely made Dave Eggars book such a zeitgeist hit.
I just can’t help wondering (Mercer’s death aside) dark but beautiful and terrible as the morning and the night vision Charlie Brooker would have done with $18 million of Abu Dhabi’s money to adapt the source material.
Not even a really plucky performance from Emma Watson can elevate The Circle yet it remains an important document of where we are headed.
It’s just a shame that this movie is more Cassandra than Galadriel; no-one will believe it shall come to pass until it’s too late and our privacy is sold to the highest bidder.
The Circle will be out of DVD one day, and Charlie Brooker is busy working on Black Mirror season four as we speak.