Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The (Scary) Circle

Some movies are supposed to be scary, some are unintentionally so. I haven't yet decided which best describes "The Circle", currently available via Netflix. We watched it last week, and it scared me! George Orwell's "1984" seemed to be coming to life, but in slightly different guise and flavour. Remember that famous quote attributed (possibly mistakenly) to Sinclair Lewis? "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross" ? After watching "The Circle" I decided a re-phrase of that quote would be apt: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the internet and carrying a smartphone."

"The Circle" is a movie adaptation of Dave Egger's 2013 novel of the same name. It's a cautionary tale, the story of a young tech worker, Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson. She gets an entry-level job with The Circle, a powerful internet corporation based in The Bay Area, California.

The Circle stores data, unbelievably huge amounts of data: financial, medical, social, personal, about its account holders. The Circle's leaders convince account holders that collection of their data is for their own convenience and will bring about a better life experience. Open sharing is good, they are told constantly. There are no grim oppressors here, their role in this digital age is taken over by smarmy, insincere Machiavellian figures, played by Tom Hanks and Patton Oswalt.

The Circle, the original 2013 novel, was set in what was then the near future - a near future so near now, in 2018, that you can taste it! Some elements of the story are already here.

I'll not outline the story in detail, in case any stray reader might want to read the book or see the movie. There are numerous reviews around the net for anyone curious to know more. Reviewers in general are not impressed with the movie adaptation, though most do say that the theme is a good one - the adaptation for screen could have been handled better. I agree. There was something missing, for me. I found The Circle scary and prescient though, because of what I've read about today's social network websites. The movie's worst failing, I thought, was that it felt flat, in tone. Tom Hanks played the part he was supposed to play well enough, yet it's not easy to erase his long-time chat show image: a genuinely nice, good guy. A different actor in that part could have added extra edge and a brisker tone. Let's see, who can play smarmy, charismatic, but basically manipulative and...well...bad, with no ingrained "good guy" background?
Bryan Cranston? James Spader?

No comments: