Digital privacy and security issues have been hot topics in the news lately, and while we don’t find it surprising, we certainly are pleased with the attention it’s finally receiving from the public. Last year, the film Snowden was released. It’s a political thriller about a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who later became known as a whistleblower to some and a hero to others. This year, we are in for a treat with another digital privacy-related film called, The Circle. The intense cyber-thriller features talented and versatile actress Emma Watson and phenomenal Hollywood vet Tom Hanks. Just hearing that those two brilliant actors are in a movie together should spark enough curiosity to watch the film, don’t you think? Add cyber-thriller into the mix, and we know it’s going to be a guaranteed hit!
The Circle is a 2013 novel written by Dave Eggers, which explores the many problems of today’s digital world including cybersecurity, privacy, and mass surveillance.
The story centers on Mae Holland, a young, female 20-something whose determination and optimism lands her an exciting opportunity to work for a giant tech corporation called The Circle. Intrigued by the festive environment, unconventional lifestyle and other brilliant tech enthusiasts, she finds herself curious for more that the organization has to offer. Along the way, Mae gets romantically involved with an unidentifiable coworker at the firm, which only adds more suspense to the plot’s complexity.
Like many tech companies that aspire to take innovation to the next level, The Circle starts producing highly sophisticated devices that enable users to gain access to what was considered sensitive material via cameras. In a more rational society, this would be classified as an invasion of privacy. However, this eventually becomes the norm, and Mae fully emerges herself in this new realm of digital comfort and trust. Thus, losing her identity and dignity in the midst of conforming to a dark, impassive community.
The Circle is a story that can be interpreted as a nod to George Orwell’s 1984, or one that is simply satirical with subliminal messages directed towards popular social networking sites such as Facebook, a social platform notorious for its constant prying into our personal interests. The Circle (fictional company) aims for complete transparency, in which Mae is faced with a difficult decision of either accepting it or fighting against it.
Interestingly, Dave Eggers admitted in an interview with McSweeney’s Internet Tendency that the book was in no way about Google or Facebook. In the story, The Circle is recognized as the most superior tech company with existing search engines and social media sites consolidated into one massive system. Eggers also explained that he had no desire to visit tech campuses in Silicon Valley because he did not want his book influenced by any of the companies or employees. He considers this a novel that focuses more on the relationship between humans, technology, and the implications of decisions rather than technology itself.
We already know that most book adaptations tend to skip many details written in the novel. To be fair, we are also aware that there is only so much they can put into a two hour film. So, we are encouraging you to buy and read the book before the film’s release next month. We already added this to our must-read list!
Emma Watson is cast as Mae Holland, the lead protagonist in The Circle. Watson, most known for her major role in the popular Harry Potter series, takes on a part that is more intense and emotionally charged than her previous roles. James Ponsoldt, the director of The Circle, told Entertainment Weekly that they were fortunate to have Watson in the film because of her brilliant nature and deep, challenging thought process.
A week ago, Watson was reported as another victim of a personal leaked photo hack, which is an on-going problem in which the public, and not just celebrities, needs to deal with. While the photos did not expose any nudity, it is still an intrusion of privacy, and Watson will be taking legal action as she should.
Tom Hanks also joins Watson as Eamon Bailey, the “mastermind” behind The Circle. He was the first actor cast for the film shortly after his work on another Dave Eggers adaptation. His character will bring a somewhat twisted, clever, and dark perspective on technology and its impact on humanity. “Because knowing is good, but knowing everything is better.” That line sure seems to hit home.
Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton (RIP) are among the other cast members in The Circle. Oswalt plays as the co-founder of The Circle while Paxton plays the unfortunate ill-fated father of Mae. This is Paxton’s last film as he had passed away last month due to complications of heart surgery.
Why must we see this film? Given the state of our newly convoluted technological way of life, the answer should be obvious. We urge you to see this film, but not because it’s another one of those paranoid induced movies to frighten viewers. In fact, we don’t want you to view in that way, and we think Ponsoldt would agree that the intent is not to intimidate audiences. This movie is meant to make us think about our growing connections through technology and the impact it has on our world as a whole. In a sense, it allows us to re-examine our values and morals. Overall, this movie looks promising and thought provoking, and we certainly look forward to watching it April, 28th.
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