Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The Circle (2017)

"Secrets are lies!"

It's a surprise to see that Netflix are making films (and this is a film, with a cinematic release) with such stellar casts; here we get Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, the late Bill Paxton and John Boyega, although Emma Watson, playing American, underwhelms a little as Mae. Still, the film, an adaptation by Dave Evers of his own novel, is superb and thought-provoking.

Mae takes a job at "The Circle", an organisation that seems to be inspired by Apple, Google and Facebook in its culture, employment practices and messianic leader Eamon (Hanks), clearly based on Steve Jobs. At first things are great, with a high salary, a friendly culture on "campus" and plenty of fun and ties. Then we get our first sign of the company being something of a cult, with compulsory "optional" recreational activities and an expectation that employees will maintain a heavy presence on "TrueYou", a thinly veiled Facebook analogue. Mae realised things have gone too far with chips being planned to go into children's bones so they can be monitored and connects with reclusive and disillusioned TrueYou inventor Ty Laffitte (Boyega). Yet her ill-advised cry for help has horrific circumstances.

Mae's persuasion by Eamon to go "transparent", to have her entire life broadcast to the online public on the grounds that "secrets are lies", privacy is bad and we need to be watched to stop us doing bad things is deeply, deeply sinister. Things go predictably wrong very quickly but Mae has her revenge on Eamon- yet it isn't a happy ending as the onward march of social media to trample over our right to privacy is unimpeded, with the Circle able to track down any person for any reason and, now compulsory, delivering electoral information and public services in the ultimate corrupt privatisation. Even the Circle's claim to oppose tyrannical regimes is somewhat undercut by the fact that sending "frowns" to a dictatorship is a pretty impotent thing to do, just like all forms of clicktivism.

The film is marred, perhaps, by a strange blandness on the part of Emma Watson, but the ideas played with in this film are superb. It's worth seeing this script being performed in spite of the film's faults.

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