The Circle (2017 film)

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The Circle
The Circle (2017 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on The Circle
by Dave Eggers
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by Lisa Lassek
Distributed by STX Entertainment
Release date
  • April 26, 2017 (2017-04-26) (Tribeca)
  • April 28, 2017 (2017-04-28) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million[2]
Box office $30.1 million[2]

The Circle is a 2017 American techno-thriller film directed by James Ponsoldt and written by Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers, based on Eggers' 2013 novel of the same name. The film stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton. The film was the final of Paxton's career, released just after his February 2017 death, and is also Headly's penultimate performance too, prior to her death in June 2017.

The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, 2017, and was theatrically released on April 28, 2017, by STX Entertainment, the film received generally negative reviews and grossed $30 million worldwide, becoming director Ponsoldt's highest grossing feature.[2]


Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is on her way home when her car breaks down, she contacts an old acquaintance Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), who arrives to take a look at the vehicle. Mae tells him that they should get together some time.

The next day while at work Mae gets a call from her friend Annie Allerton (Karen Gillan). Annie works at The Circle, a powerful tech company, and is one of the 40 most influential people in the company. Annie is constantly traveling because of her responsibilities but is surprisingly upbeat despite the stresses of her work. Mae, interested, is interviewed at The Circle and gets a job in Customer Experience, an entry level position that requires her to assist users of The Circle's products and services, she is constantly rated by the people she assists, and is motivated to keep the score high.

At a company-wide meeting, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) introduces a new initiative called SeeChange, the initiative involves small cameras that can be placed anywhere. Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) gives a speech about the human rights implications of these cameras, the cameras provide real-time video feeds.

During a party on the Circle's campus, Annie sneaks Mae away from the party and takes her to an office. Annie explains that Mae actually shouldn't be there, as it is where Eamon and Stenton make the big decisions for the company, after leaving the office, Mae sees an employee away from all of the events, glued to his phone. Mae approaches and begins a conversation, he asks her if she is a guppy, a term used at The Circle for new employees. They carry on a little conversation before he gets a prompt from his phone and tells Mae that he has to go, leaving her a bottle of alcohol.

While home for the weekend, Mae attends a barbecue with her family and friends, her father, Vinnie Holland (Bill Paxton), has multiple sclerosis and has some difficulty performing normal day tasks without the help of his wife, Bonnie (Glenne Headly). Mae's parents approve of Mercer and would like if they spent time together. Vinnie asks Mae to grab him a beer from inside their house in an attempt to have them meet. Mae and Mercer discuss his business of making deer antlers into chandeliers, the conversation doesn't last long, and Mae returns to her parents.

Back at work, two employees come to Mae and ask why she has not updated her Circle profile, they note that she has been gone from the campus all weekend and ask why. While they are careful not to make anything seem mandatory, they appear to want Mae to open up more in her Circle profile and engage fully with the company. Mae tells them about her love of kayaking and her father's health condition, after the two employees leave, Mae seems more determined to rise up in The Circle by fully embracing all of its social networking tools. At a company presentation, Tom introduces a political candidate who is making all of her communications transparent and visible to those who wish to see them. Tom applauds while explaining how transparency brings accountability, the man from the party is also in the crowd, but in the back. Once the candidate is done talking, he leaves.

During another late night party at The Circle, Mae again sees the man from the party, Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), once again on his phone, she approaches Ty and begins another conversation. Ty then takes her to a restricted area, insisting she tell no one his actions, he shows her an abandoned underground area and tells her that it's the future of The Circle. He says the plan is to keep all information on everyone in this area. Ty does not seem comfortable with this new direction. Mae becomes embarrassed, as Ty is the creator of True You, a very popular Circle product, and she did not know who he was, he tells her that True You has been morphed into something that he did not intend and that he has taken a back seat at The Circle.

Later, Mae is shown a picture of a chandelier Mercer made by her mother, she takes a picture of it and shares it on her Circle profile. Unbeknownst to her, the image attracts significant negative attention to Mercer from people accusing him of 'murdering animals'. Mercer, who lives off the technological grid, comes to The Circle and confronts Mae about her sharing the picture. Mae is horrified and asks to go somewhere private when people begin to film the conversation, despite Mae's insistence that she didn't mean to hurt him, Mercer storms off.

Mae goes kayaking at night, and nearly drowns due to fog and darkness preventing her from seeing a ship; she is rescued by the coastguard. The following day Mae is in Eamon and Tom's office. Eamon explains that SeeChange cameras caught her breaking into the kayak premises and also caught her in the water, it was because of the cameras that she was saved. He then asks her if there is anything she wants to confess, and Mae admits to being in their office previously. Eamon then asks her how it feels to tell the truth, and she says it is liberating. Eamon and Tom then allude to a plan that involves her, at the next meeting, Eamon introduces Mae on stage, and they talk about her experience of being rescued. She expresses the good of transparency, and announces she is the first circler to go 'completely transparent', this involves wearing a small camera on her person while awake and therefore exposing her life to everyone in the world. Annie is seen in the audience, appearing exhausted, she looks resentfully at Mae and calls her a natural under her breath.

Being fully transparent turns Mae into a celebrity at The Circle, but begins hurting some of her close relationships. Mae looks for her parents through SeeChange cameras and accidentally sees them having sex, she quickly turns away from the camera, but the damage is done as everyone following her sees in turn. Her parents go off the grid and distance themselves from Mae. When she is finally able to talk to them, they express their love but find being so transparent to be too much.

Mae is invited to a high-level board meeting, Annie seems to resent it as someone so low level is not usually invited, at the meeting, Eamon announces support from all 50 states to allow individuals to vote through Circle accounts. Mae then takes it one step further bringing up the idea of requiring every individual to have a Circle account. Eamon and Tom approve of the suggestion, but it upsets Annie. Annie gets vocal about her disagreement and ends up storming out of the board meeting, at the next company-wide meeting, Mae takes the floor, stating that The Circle believes it can find anyone on the planet in under 20 minutes. She has computer randomly select a criminal at large for Circlers to find; a women who killed her children who escaped prison. Within 10 minutes, Circlers around the world find her through use of social media and the SeeChange cameras. Mae uses this example to show how transparency can be a force for good.

Mae goes on to state that this program can find anyone, not just criminals, after asking the audience for a target, someone suggests Mercer. Mae initially resistant, but the crowd becomes restless. Mae is trying to dissuade the audience, and Tom convinces her to continue, asking if they can break their record of 10 minutes. People eventually find Mercer in a cabin. Multiple people surround his cabin and begin demanding why he is an animal killer. Mercer escapes in his truck from the people tracking him, the chase viewed by Mae and the rest through real-time cameras. One of the watching drones startles him, causing him to drive off a bridge, killing him. Mae, horrified at what she caused to happen, takes a leave from The Circle and total transparency, she moves back in with her parents to mourn and cope. She calls Annie, who has left The Circle as well to her apparent benefit. Mae however find that her connection with others is what is helping her cope with Mercers death.

Mae returns to the Circle, despite her Parents pleas. Mae calls Ty and asks for a favor, while Ty tells her something that he has discovered, at the next company-wide meeting, Mae expresses how connection has helped her recover. As she speaks with Eamon, she invites Tom onstage, though he appears wary. Mae invites both Eamon and Tom to go fully transparent, she explains how Ty has found all their accounts, even the accounts that their wives were unaware of, and exposes them as no one should be exempt. Eamon and Tom, clearly upset, try to save face before Tom leaves the stage.

Mae reiterates her point of transparency being good, to the support of the audience. Mae goes kayaking again, embracing and unbothered by the drones that surround her.



Casting and financing[edit]

On December 15, 2014, Deadline reported that Tom Hanks would star in a film adaptation of Dave Eggers' 2013 novel The Circle, with James Ponsoldt writing and directing.[8] In January 2015, THR confirmed that Anthony Bregman would produce the film through his banner, Likely Story, along with Ponsoldt, Hanks, and Gary Goetzman,[8][9] on May 11, 2015, it was announced that Image Nation Abu Dhabi would fully finance the film, together with Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, while IM Global would handle international sales.[10] IM GLOBAL later sold the rights to various distributors,[11] on May 23, 2015, Deadline revealed that producers had offered Emma Watson the female lead role in the film. In June 2015, director Ponsoldt confirmed that Watson was not officially on board, but that she is one possibility to star in the film, on June 24, 2015, Variety confirmed that Watson was officially set to play the lead role of Mae Holland in the film.[3][12] On August 19, 2015, John Boyega was added to the cast, and on September 1, 2015, Karen Gillan was cast to play Annie, a warm and intelligent member of The Circle,[5] on September 11, 2015, Patton Oswalt joined the cast to play Tom Stenton, one of three founders of the Circle,[6] and on September 16, 2015, Bill Paxton joined the film as Watson's character's father.[7][13] On September 29, 2015, Ellar Coltrane joined the film, playing the character Mercer.[14]


Principal photography on the film began on September 11, 2015, in Los Angeles, California.[12][15][16] On September 17, filming was taking place in Pasadena.[17] Reshoots were done in January 2017.[18]


In February 2016, EuropaCorp acquired U.S and Canadian distribution rights to the film,[19] while STX Entertainment co-distributes.[20] The Circle premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, 2017[21] and was released on April 28, 2017.[22] The film was released in the UK on July 4th, as a Netflix original film.[citation needed]

Box office[edit]

The Circle grossed $20.5 million in the United States and Canada and $9.6 million in other territories, for a total of $30.1 million, against a production budget of $18 million.[2]

In North America, The Circle was released alongside How to Be a Latin Lover, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Sleight, and was projected to gross $10–12 million from 3,163 theaters during its opening weekend.[23] However, the film underperformed, debuting at number five with $9 million, behind The Fate of the Furious, How to Be a Latin Lover, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and The Boss Baby.[24]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 15% based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 4.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Circle assembles an impressive cast, but this digitally driven thriller spins aimlessly in its half-hearted exploration of timely themes."[25] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 43 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[26] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale.[27]

Glenn Kenny of The New York Times criticized the film for its repetitiveness and lack of originality: "The novel is at its most trenchantly funny when depicting the exhausting nature of virtual social life, and it’s in this area, too, that the movie gets its very few knowing laughs. But it’s plain, not much more than 15 minutes in, that without the story’s paranoid aspects you’re left with a conceptual framework that’s been lapped three times over by the likes of, say, the Joshua Cohen novel Book of Numbers or the HBO comedy series Silicon Valley".[28] Dan Callahan of The Wrap wrote: "The main problem with The Circle is that the evil of the tech company is made so obvious right from the start."[29]

Eric Kohn of IndieWire awarded the film a C, he was especially critical of the film's tonal inconsistencies: "Recent years have seen a proliferation of deep-dive narratives on the information age, from the psychological thriller territory of Mr. Robot to the parodic extremes of Silicon Valley. Ponsoldt’s project is stuck in between those two extremes, on the one hand, it’s an Orwellian drama about surveillance society; at the same time, it’s a sincere workplace drama about young adulthood that shoehorns in some techno-babble for the sake of deepening its potential."[30]

Gregory Wakeman of Cinema Blend panned the film, arguing that "the movie's grand philosophical debate is so simplistic and comes from two opposing and extreme sides of the spectrum that it's basically rendered mute."[31] He also wrote: "Smug, condescending, and completely without incident, The Circle is the reason why people hate Hollywood." Wakeman gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of five. Likewise, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film one star out of four, he wrote: "The Circle feels dull, dated and ripped from yesterday's headlines. It flatlines while you're watching it."[32]

In a positive review, John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "The film's final message isn't as difficult to grapple with as the world we're actually living in, but that doesn't make it easy." He also described the film as "a mainstream-friendly critique of social media."[33] Owen Gleiberman of Variety was positive as well, directing much of his praise towards the film's contemporary relevance: "You could call The Circle a dystopian thriller, yet it’s not the usual boilerplate sci-fi about grimly abstract oppressors lording it over everyone else. The movie is smarter and creepier than that; it’s a cautionary tale for the age of social-media witch hunts and compulsive oversharing. The fascist digital future the movie imagines is darkly intriguing to contemplate, because one’s main thought about it is how much of that future is already here."[34] Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle also praised the film's timeliness: "What makes The Circle so valuable is not only that it’s showing us a ghastly possible path that the world may take, but that it articulates the mentality that could create and sustain it."[35]


  1. ^ "The Circle". Tribeca Film Festival. Retrieved March 17, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Circle (2017)". The Numbers. Retrieved June 8, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b McNary, Dave (June 24, 2015). "Emma Watson Joins Tom Hanks in Thriller ‘The Circle’". Retrieved June 25, 2015. 
  4. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (August 18, 2015). "‘Star Wars’ John Boyega Lands Lead In James Ponsoldt’s ‘The Circle’". Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Hipes, Patrick (September 1, 2015). "Karen Gillan Completes ‘Circle’, Lands Final Lead In James Ponsoldt Pic". Retrieved September 2, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Hipes, Patrick (September 11, 2015). "Patton Oswalt Joins James Ponsoldt’s ‘The Circle’". Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (September 16, 2015). "Bill Paxton Joins Tom Hanks in ‘The Circle’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Retrieved September 20, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (December 15, 2014). "Tom Hanks Eyes David Eggers’ Novel ‘The Circle’ With James Ponsoldt: Hot Package". Retrieved June 24, 2015. 
  9. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; McClintock, Pamela (May 11, 2015). "Cannes: 'Ex Machina's' Alicia Vikander to Star in James Ponsoldt's 'The Circle' (Exclusive)". Retrieved June 24, 2015. 
  10. ^ McNary, Dave (May 11, 2015). "Cannes: Tom Hanks Thriller ‘The Circle’ Gets Financing from Image Nation". Retrieved June 24, 2015. 
  11. ^ Otterson, Joe (May 20, 2015). "Cannes: Tom Hanks’ ‘The Circle’ Sold Worldwide to Independent Territories by IM Global". Retrieved June 24, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b NEMIROFF, PERRI (June 18, 2015). "THE CIRCLE: James Ponsoldt Updates on Emma Watson’s Involvement; Confirms Fall Start". Retrieved June 24, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Actor Bill Paxton died on Saturday. He was 61.". Retrieved February 26, 2017. 
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (September 29, 2015). "'Boyhood' Star Joins Emma Watson, Tom Hanks in 'The Circle' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  15. ^ "On the Set for 9/11/15: Matt Damon Starts on Jason Bourne Sequel, Shailene Woodley Wraps Divergent Series: Allegiant". September 11, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Emma Watson cuts a demure figure in knitted sweater and chinos as she gets to work on her new movie The Circle". September 12, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Filming Locations for ‘The Circle’, starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks & Patton Oswalt". September 17, 2015. Retrieved September 20, 2015. 
  18. ^ "STX Lands Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’ And Other EuropaCorp Titles In 3-Year Pact; RED Hit With Massive Layoffs". January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  19. ^ Lang, Brent (February 9, 2016). "EuropaCorp Buys Domestic Rights to ‘The Circle’ With Emma Watson, Tom Hanks". Retrieved February 9, 2016. 
  20. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike; Busch, Anita (January 3, 2017). "STX Lands Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’ And Other EuropaCorp Titles In 3-Year Pact; RED Hit With Massive Layoffs". Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  21. ^ Cox, Gordon (March 8, 2017). "Emma Watson and Tom Hanks’ ‘The Circle’ to Premiere at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival". Variety. Retrieved March 8, 2017. 
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (October 7, 2016). "Tom Hanks & Emma Watson Thriller ‘The Circle’ Sets Spring 2017 Release". Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  23. ^ "'The Circle' likely no match for 'Fate' at the box office". Los Angeles Times. 
  24. ^ "Box Office: 'Fate of the Furious' Wins; 'How to Be a Latin Lover,' 'Baahubali 2' Beat 'The Circle'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 30, 2017. 
  25. ^ "The Circle (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved July 6, 2017. 
  26. ^ "The Circle Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 4, 2017. 
  27. ^ CinemaScore on Twitter (April 28, 2017). "The Circle". Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  28. ^ Kenny, Glenn (April 27, 2017). "Review: In ‘The Circle,’ Click Here if You Think You’re Being Watched". The New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  29. ^ Callahan, Dan (April 26, 2017). "‘The Circle’ Review: Tom Hanks Runs Social Media Cult in Implausible Thriller". The Wrap. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  30. ^ Kohn, Eric (April 27, 2017). "‘The Circle’ Review: Tom Hanks and Emma Watson Star In a Misguided Story of Technology Gone Wrong — Tribeca 2017". IndieWire. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  31. ^ Wakeman, Gregory (April 27, 2017). "THE CIRCLE REVIEW". Cinema Blend. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  32. ^ Travers, Peter (April 28, 2017). "'The Circle' Review: Torn-From-Headlines Tech Thriller Is Cinematic Dead Link". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 28, 2017. 
  33. ^ DeFore, John (April 26, 2017). "'The Circle': Film Review - Tribeca 2017". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  34. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 26, 2017). "Tribeca Film Review: Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in ‘The Circle’". The Wrap. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 
  35. ^ LaSalle, Mick (April 26, 2017). "‘The Circle’ a tale of technology run amok". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 27, 2017. 

External links[edit]