When Mae 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, 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 that of humanity.
When Mae is getting a tour of the campus facilities by Annie, she is told of the various clubs in one outside area. One of the activities pointed out by Annie was "Quidditch". Of course, the flying broomstick sport of Quidditch was made famous in the Harry Potter universe, in which Emma Watson starred. A land based version of the "sport" has since become popular among university students and tech nerds such as those in The Circle (2017). See more »
When Mae puts on the body camera, it's described as "total transparency" of her life. Yet she can choose to turn it off for bathroom breaks (or to have secret meetings in the bathroom), so it's not a total record of everything she's done or said. See more »
Written by Marc Bolan
Performed by T. Rex
Courtesy of Spirit Music Group o/b/o Spirit Services Holdings, S.A.R.L. See more »
It'll make you think long and hard about how much to put on FACEBOOK!!!
"Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better." Bailey (Tom Hanks)
How much information is too much? The Circle shows in a direct and melodramatic form that the saturation point is here. Mae (Emma Watson) is hired by a tech-centered firm, an amalgam of Apple, Facebook, and the CIA. Their inclusion-full-knowledge mantra culminates in Mae's agreeing to have complete transparency, a Truman Show for our time.
Bailey is the Steve-Jobs guru, whose weekly assembly for the campus is a model of group think and cultism, launching from the newest technology to the newest invasion of privacy. The willingness of the audience to embrace everything from the unethical farming of information to his obviously self-serving anecdotes suggests Jim-Jones cool-aid-audience imbibing.
The film is an attention-getting, absorbing object lesson in neglecting critical thinking.
The film's provocative theme about full disclosure includes the implied dialectic between the common good and privacy. Knowing where criminals are, such as in our sex-offender laws, is good in the case of creeps but scary when innocent citizens are the object.
Two incidents close to the protagonist illustrate the effects of private invasion, one for survival, the other for denying the efficacy. The former is about saving Mae from drowning because of surveillance and the other about the world seeing her aging parents having sex. No one could wish not to have life-saving surveillance; no one could want parental transparency 24/7.
The Circle is frequently simplistic, e.g., having records that allow automatic registration for voting but also require voting, ignores invasion of privacy and personal choice.
None of this polemic completely negates the efficacy of social media and constant contact. However, transparency, the film suggests, invades and makes circus-like a privacy our Constitution implies.
The camera spends too much time on Mae's bland, wondering stare and meaningless conversations that would be better spent arguing the mission of the Circle. At least it's a start toward better regulation of social information both public and private.
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