A minimalist treat with an ethical edge. Read on…
Circle is a 2015 science fiction film that claims to be inspired be 12 angry men, or at least the wiki claims that: Wiki Page. While the inspirational link between the two is present, Circle goes a bit further into how quickly humanity will turn on itself for short-term gains. How quickly we can justify horrid actions to ourselves is in the spotlight this movie.
The film is simple: 50 people trapped in a room standing on small red circles. Every few moments the computer/alien will execute one of the people. The biggest problem, though, is that the people have to vote who is going to die next. Almost immediately, the group fractures into ideological groups that fight to stay alive.
The pacing of the film is relentless, as it is just about real time for how frequently someone is going to die. Social issues become reasons for someone to be targeted, such as race, religion, class, sexual identity, and profession. No one is safe and no one is above harsh criticism by their fellow survivors. How quickly judgment falls on a survivor is stunning and leaves no room for consideration on the part of the other people. Those who argue for morality are manipulated into literally voting against their interests at several points.
The film is lean, and there is nothing wrong with that. About 99% of the film takes place in one room, and the characters stand until they are selected to die. The minimalist set allows for the pacing and focus of the film to never end. At a tight 87 minutes, the film does not overstay its welcome, despite the limitations of the set. The acting is, for the most part, quite strong. The people are stressed and constantly trying to convince everyone else who they should vote for next. The more ruthless individuals deploy a nearly endless and varied barrage of rhetorical moves toward the others. The constant questioning of decisions makes the film a fun “what would I do?” meditation of sorts.
Circle is certainly worth a watch, but probably not a buy. If there is anything lacking in the film, it is the limit of what a second viewing could offer. Further, some of the “villainous” viewpoints are almost laughably obvious. However, these couple shortcomings don’t detract from the overall experience. This is a thinking thriller that manages to keep things tense and fun. A tough mix to do, and it is done well here. 7.5/10