High Point University

Nothing thrilling about techno-thriller, ‘The Circle’

Students can check out “The Circle” at Smith Library and see Emma Watson star as Mae Holland, whose life is changed by everwatching eyes that monitor her every move. Photo by The Verge

By Lucy Dumford

Staff Writer

The movie “The Circle” is a techno-thriller about Mae Holland, a young woman who leaves her desk job for an exciting new opportunity at the multimillion-dollar tech company called “The Circle.” This company believes in total integration of work and personal life through complete oversharing of everything on social media and pressuring staff to spend every day on the work campus.

The movie hits all the bases of popular movies today: romance, crazy bosses and actors who struggle to develop a full character. Additionally, the movie is supposed to be centered around privacy issues yet struggles to form one cohesive theme. Because director James Ponsoldt refuses to go below surface-level, “The Circle” is ineffective at both developing a plot and incorporating the seriousness of the subject of privacy.

The characterization of Holland is confusing and does not completely make logical sense. She is continually confronted with the negative consequences of extreme interconnectivity but still finds herself deriving satisfaction from it.

Film critic Owen Gleiberman said “Holland has a desire to be liked that turns her cheerleading for the new technocratic agenda into something uniquely vali- dating. She wins followers, the love of her coworkers, the approval of her bosses, and through it all she fills the hole in her soul with a new way of ‘connecting.’ Sure, she has some good experiences, like getting to meet her new crush Ty and connecting with people on a global scale, but there are a far greater number of bad experiences than good. Furthermore, I am under the impression that almost all of these “connections” that she has are nothing but superficial.

She ends up losing all that is truly important to her. Online interconnectivity causes the death of her long-time friend Mercer, the strain in her relationship with her parents and her best friend Annie’s trust. Furthermore, it creates a constant feeling of stress and invasion. Despite all of these microtraumas, Mae still chooses to fully indulge herself in the company of drones following her at the end of the movie.

Her character development has holes all over. She starts by being hyper-focused on privacy and weary of “The Circle” and then has all of these negative experiences with very few positives in between, yet still goes running back to technology in the end.

Film critic David Edelstein points out the issues with pacing in the film as well, saying, “The movie moves quickly, too quickly. Scenes must have been cut. Holland becomes “The Circle’s” most flamboyant proselytizer, pushing for less privacy, more surveillance.”

Because the movie is so fast-paced, it can touch on a wide variety of topics. However, none ever goes into deep enough detail to allow for a cohesive story. Instead, what viewers get is a patchy plot that sometimes connects but often leaves the viewer wondering what just happened.

Ponsoldt shamelessly glazes over the issue of privacy without ever taking a stance of his own. There are characters like Mae’s parents who heavily value privacy and fear for their own lives and the protection of Mae when she goes transparent, but there are also characters like CEO: Eamon Bailey, who asserts that everything must be shared as he considers keeping secrets a form of lying.

Each character has their own perspective, but Ponsoldt struggles to mesh these beliefs together to construct one cohesive narrative theme. There is no real moral of the story. The audience is looking for a lifeline to grab onto but are just left drowning in a sea of confusing viewpoints. With cybersecurity and privacy being at the forefront of discussion today, it is expected for a techno-thriller to have a little bit more legitimate information on the topic. Sure, the idea of privacy is apparent, but it is not pushed as much as it should be for what the movie promises.

The movie did not end satisfyingly, and the path it took to get there was disappointing as well. Additionally, the idea of privacy was barely there. In this day and age of growing technology, it is important to have a film that points out the real consequences of mass communication.