Following an alien invasion, a diverse group of 50 people are sucked up into a black void space that is meant to be a spaceship. Each person is forced to stand on a red circle, or they’ll be struck by a killer lightning bolt. Touch one of the other people. Killer lightning. Do nothing for too long. Killer lightning. Turns out, each person gets a vote as to who gets killed every few minutes. It’s like some perverted democracy.
And that’s where the ethical questioning begins.
As the ensemble tries to logically break down the situation at hand, they bicker about superficial moral quandaries. Like the political debate stage, they fight over illegal immigration, racism, religion, pornography, and, perhaps most importantly, whether to kill a child or a pregnant woman. Ultimately, it plays out as stereotypical characters standing on their soapboxes for no entertainment value.
Given the size of the cast in such a confined space, each character gets roughly two minutes to tell their story. Thus, no one character matters to the audience whatsoever. In fact, most characters don’t even have names. In this way, attachment to these characters at the human level is rendered impossible. Perhaps this is the point, that the cruelty of man shines through in everyone, but, on a cinematic level, this apathy only creates problems for the narrative.
With the possibility of pathos and ethos expunged from the proceedings, we are left with the novelty of the premise to save our experience. That is to say, the last 20 minutes of the film are the only hope for its success.
Sadly, the climax achieves nothing but what is expected. And, somehow, even less. The small tremble of suspense that has been building throughout the film is extinguished with a whimper of a final scene that does more to backtrack than to provide a thought-provoking conclusion.
Circle wants to be an allegory about the disturbed American political system. Factions form like political parties, and morality takes a backseat to absurdity. But, the morality that is up for debate in the script is mishandled by stereotyping and superficiality. No real critical engagement of moral topics occurs, it is simply blathering straw man arguments. Circle is infuriating in its over-simplification of real-life social issues.
This movie may have only dwindling entertainment value. But it birthed this insane line of dialogue: “You think aliens want me to die, because I’m gay?” And that’s worth a chuckle.
As always, thanks for reading!
Circle is currently on Netflix and Amazon Video.
Have you seen Circle? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)