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
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 $33.9 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 and Tom Hanks, with John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton. It is the final performance of Paxton's career, and was released just after his death in February 2017, it is also Headly's penultimate performance before 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 STXfilms and EuropaCorp, it received negative reviews but grossed $33 million worldwide, becoming director Ponsoldt's highest grossing feature.[2]


When her car breaks down, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) contacts an old acquaintance, Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), who is liked by her parents: Vinnie (Bill Paxton) has multiple sclerosis and needs the help of his wife, Bonnie (Glenne Headly).

Mae's friend Annie Allerton (Karen Gillan) works at The Circle, a tech company where Mae gets a job in Customer Experience.

At a company meeting, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) introduces SeeChange, which uses small cameras placed anywhere to provide real-time video.

At work, Mae rises in The Circle, embracing social networking, at a company presentation, Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) introduces a political candidate. Tom explains how transparency brings accountability. A man Mae previously met at a party is in the crowd and leaves once the candidate ceases talking.

Mae again sees the man from the party, Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), he takes her to an abandoned underground area, saying that 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 made by Mercer in the shape of (or from) deer antlers, she photographs it and shares it on her Circle profile. The image attracts significant negative attention to Mercer, with people accusing him of killing real animals. Mercer confronts Mae about sharing the picture, despite her insistence that she did not intend to hurt him, Mercer storms off.

Mae goes kayaking at night and has to be rescued by the Coast Guard, the next day, Eamon says that SeeChange cameras recorded her at the kayak premises and in the water. She was saved because of this, at the next meeting, Eamon introduces Mae and they discuss her experience of rescue. She becomes the first circler to go "completely transparent." This involves wearing a small camera and exposing her life to the world. Annie is in the audience.

Mae's transparency damages her relationships, she accidentally sees her parents having sex. She quickly turns away from the camera, but everyone following her sees in turn.

At a board meeting, Eamon announces support from all 50 states for voting through Circle accounts. Mae suggests requiring every individual to have a Circle account. Eamon and Tom approve, but the suggestion upsets Annie, at the next company-wide meeting, Mae says that The Circle believes it can find anyone on the planet in under 20 minutes. She identifies an escaped prisoner. Within 10 minutes, Circlers around the world find the prisoner through social media and SeeChange cameras. Mae suggests transparency can be a force for good.

Mae says that the program can find anyone. Someone suggests Mercer. Tom persuades Mae to continue, asking if they can break their record of 10 minutes. Mercer is located in a cabin. Disturbed, and wanting privacy, he drives off trying to escape those tracking him but, under stress, he drives off a bridge to his death. Mae is horrified, she moves back in with her parents. She calls Annie, who has also left The Circle, to her apparent benefit. Mae, however, finds that connection with others helps her cope with Mercer's death.

Mae returns to the Circle, despite her parents' pleas. Mae calls Ty to ask for a favor, and Ty tells her something that he has discovered, at the next company-wide meeting, Mae says how connection has helped her recover. She speaks with Eamon and invites Tom onstage, then inviting 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, with the support of the audience. Mae goes kayaking again, untroubled 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]

Box office[edit]

The Circle grossed $20.5 million in the United States and Canada and $13.4 million in other territories, for a total of $33.9 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 17% based on 112 reviews, with an average rating of 4.3/10. 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." 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.[31] 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 August 5, 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]