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Circle (2015) Movie Poster
USA  •    •  87m  •    •  Directed by: Aaron Hann, Mario Miscione.  •  Starring: Allegra Masters, Aimee McKay, Ashley Key, Autumn Federici, Bill Lewis, Brent Stiefel, Cameron Cruz, Carter Jenkins, Cesar Garcia, Coley Speaks, Daniel Lench, Daniel Yelsky, David Reivers.  •  Music by: Justin Marshall Elias.
        In a massive, mysterious chamber, fifty strangers awaken to find themselves trapped with no memory of how they got there. Every two minutes, one of them must die... Executed by an electrical pulse generated from a source within the chamber. At first the attacks seem random, but, soon the strangers realize that they, as a group, have the power to decide who will be the next to be killed: by the power of the vote. Mob mentality at its finest hour. A chance to control the machine. How will they choose who deserves to die? What happens when there's only one person left? ''Circle'' is a film about humanity. How we value one another and how people react when they are forced to make decisions under the worst possible circumstances. It's a film that speaks to the very core of what makes us human - Who we are, what we believe and ultimately, the lengths we will go to in which to save ourselves.


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Image from: Circle (2015)
Image from: Circle (2015)
Image from: Circle (2015)
Image from: Circle (2015)
Image from: Circle (2015)
Let's first of all say that this isn't the sort of film I'd ordinarily watch, and I started watching it by accident after searching Netflix for 'The Circle', which a friend had recommended to me, starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan among other well-known actors.

'Circle', however, contains no one famous. It became obvious pretty quickly that I was watching the wrong film, but something about it kept me interested. For all intents and purposes, it looks like a horror, which I don't usually like, but it's not remotely scary and is better described as a psychological thriller. It's not really that either - there's no action. In fact, the entire cast spend the entire film standing in a circle (and around in a circle) until they get killed off, whereby they disappear. Their deaths come at the hands of a mysterious orb thing in the middle of said circle that zaps them and they collapse. Not gruesome or gratuitous at all.

The best way I can describe is a combination of 'Waiting for Godot' meets the quiz show 'The Weakest Link'.

Consequently, it defies easy categorisation, but it wastes no time in establishing the theme that lasts for the whole film: a group of fifty men and women (and children) from all different walks of life wake up to find themselves in a circle faced with a machine that will kill one of them every two minutes. The twist? They get to anonymously vote for who gets killed. I know from having done a fair amount of amateur dramatics that one of the hardest things is being on stage without any lines. It's easy to act when you've got something to say and people to interact with, but just standing there having to react to everything while getting little to do yourself is hard. It's a credit to this cast, the majority of whom are completely unknown, that they all put in solid performances. Few characters get much more than a handful of lines each, and several get none at all, yet each of them feels like a real person with their own history and personality approaching their predicament in their own way.

As the characters figure out how the weird death chamber operates, leaders, and later factions, gradually emerge and facilitate discussion among them. How should they decide who gets killed next? One character proposes that the old people should go first - they've already lived their life - while others vehemently disagree: why are their lives less valuable? Another character notices that many of the people who get killed off early are black; others accuse them of 'playing the race card'.

The film, ultimately, is a discussion on how we value life. Is it possible to quantify the value of life? Is a pregnant woman really more valuable than a childless person; couples more valuable than singles; white-collar workers more valuable than blue-collar workers; children or the elderly? It's a topical film when we as a planet are facing chronic overpopulation and resource shortages. Debates around euthanasia, for example, often bring up the slippery slope: if an old person gets sick, isn't it just easier to kill them ('euthanasia') rather than invest time, effort and money into caring for them? It thinks it's cleverer than it actually is. While some of these moral discussions are given sophisticated, intelligent treatment, others, such as a conversation around race, are clunky and feel shoehorned. Also, the fact there are only two minutes between each death means there's little depth and dialogue exchanges are vanishingly brief. Nevertheless, it's a film that I found myself thinking about: what would I do in their situation? How would I play it? I think most people watching it will find themselves siding and associating with particular characters quite quickly, whether they would admit it or not. It's a great film for starting discussions. I watched it with a few friends and we spent quite a long time talking about this, and while the film itself may not be overly deep, you can build on that in your own time.

It's not perfect: the ending leaves a lot to be desired (though could set up a sequel), some deaths feel completely random with little rhyme or reason (like the script writers couldn't think of one), and because the film attempts to cover just about every facet of society it does feel a little thin rather than focusing on one or two topical issues.

The bottom line is I found myself really engaged in 'Circle'. It's a great example of what filmmakers can achieve with limited budgets. 'Circle' features one set, but it's brilliantly designed - striking and sinister. The sound design is equally ominous and adds to the chilling atmosphere. The camerawork and editing is good, and the directors have done a great job with the cast. The last film I watched on Netflix was 'Stasis', which was a painful mess from start to finish, so 'Circle' was a welcome and refreshing change.

Review by samuellickiss from the Internet Movie Database.


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