Tom Hanks and Emma Watson Team up for Dystopian Thriller ‘The Circle’
“Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better.” This eerie slogan, uttered by Tom Hanks’s character in “The Circle,” sets the tone for one of this year’s most prescient thrillers. Based on the book by bestselling novelist Dave Eggers and directed by James Ponsoldt (responsible for the fabulous David Foster Wallace-centric “The End of the Tour”), “The Circle” (co-written by Eggers and Ponsoldt) asks all the important – and uncomfortable – questions about freedom and privacy in an era of skyrocketing technological advancement.
Like the Netflix series “Black Mirror,” “The Circle” showcases how quickly utopia can morph into dystopia. This unsettling transformation plays out through the eyes of Mae Holland (Emma Watson), an ambitious millennial who snags her dream job at the film’s titular company, a Frankensteinian mashup of Google and Facebook. Talented and driven, Mae rises through the ranks of the company, catching the eye of founder Eamon Bailey (Hanks). Spouting commonly heard Silicon Valley rhetoric about the inexorability of human potential, Bailey convinces Mae to partake in a secretive company experiment. Exposed to some of the murkier goings on in the Circle and caught in a battle to preserve and protect her identity, Mae begins to question the ethics of surveillance technology and social media sharing.
Adding to its timeliness and sense of cultural urgency, “The Circle” is imbued with a hefty amount of Hollywood gravitas. In addition to Hanks and Watson, the cast of “The Circle” boasts the likes of geek icons John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Karen Gillan (“Doctor Who” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”), prolific comedian Patton Oswalt, Ellar Coltrane of “Boyhood” fame, and Bill Paxton, in his last onscreen role before his death in February.
Addressing the themes of “The Circle” in an interview with Mother Jones, Eggers discussed his concern with most of society’s uninformed participation in internet sharing culture. “A funny thing happened on the way to utopia: We’ve turned into this surveillance society and become a race of spies, where we track our kids, and we track our spouses, and we track our friends,” he said. “I think very soon there will be an obsolescence of trust because it’s much easier to access a person’s location than it is to ask – or to trust.”
“The Circle” hits theaters on April 28.