‘The Circle’ falls pretty flat

The Circle



     We all love Tom Hanks. I do not think I have ever heard anyone say something like, “Oh, Tom Hanks is over-rated. Most of his movies are horrible.” Since his back to back “Best Actor Oscars” for “Philadelphia” in 1993 and “Forrest Gump” in 1994, Hanks has been a favorite of movie fans around the world.

     Emma Watson is less known by some, but anyone who followed the screen adventures of “Harry Potter” knows that Watson gave great work in the role of Hermione Granger in all eight films about teenage wizards. Watson has also gave a fine performance this year as Belle in the very successful live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

     I am sure that some casting agents and filmmakers were very proud of themselves for casting Hanks and Watson in the starring roles of “The Circle.” On paper, it might have looked good. Unfortunately, whatever was on the paper, does not translate on the screen in any special way.

     The biggest flaw of “The Circle” is that the stars are not interesting. Hanks is supposed to be charming in the beginning and more sinister as the film unfolds. He is neither. It is obvious in the trailer he is a bad guy, something he seldom plays, but there is not one scene he is in that impresses.

     Watson fares a little better in her role as Mae. In the early scenes she is likable as a young woman discovering a completely different world at her new job. She has one longtime friend who has been an employee for the tech company and she helps Mae adjust. This friend helps Mae and those of us in the audience, to understand the culture of this internet industry. As Mae’s responsibilities change, the film perhaps gets a little more intriguing, but there is never a moment when one fully embraces Mae. Watson also has the best moment in the film, the climax and her response to it, but there is not enough in that brief moment to save the film. 

     As I often write, the most important thing in any film is the question of whether one cares about the characters on screen. There has to be some passion for the hero, or the sidekick, the alien or the rebel. Someone needs to be worthy of the audiences attention if not passion. I wanted to like Mae, but I never felt that I knew her. I also did not believe in her transition from who she is in the beginning of the film to whom she becomes before the climax. 

     And not to give anything major away, I absolutely did not believe the conclusion of the film. Surely there would be advanced safeguards to prevent such things. By this point in the film, I had surrendered any thought of liking the movie, but the ending left me with an even greater disappointment than all that had come before combined.

     I suppose I should add one other note. Throughout the film I kept wondering where I had seen the actor who plays the young man named Mercer. His character seems as shallow as the rest of roles but he becomes more important as the film approaches the climax. After seeing the film I looked up the actor playing Mercer and discovered he is Ellar Coltrane, the lead character in “Boyhood.” Those who saw that masterpiece know that Coltrane literally grows up on screen. May he find better films as he moves forward in his adult career.

         Likewise, I hope Watson and Hanks pick better projects ahead. I would love to see both of them in a great film together. I have not given up on them, but their next work needs to be something spectacular so that I can forget “The Circle.” 

Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.



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