Circle is a psychological thriller, that focuses entirely on dialogue and acting for it’s narrative. It features a rather large ensemble cast, but one that manages to control the difficult film style. With these limitations it attempts to investigate human nature, and what some people are willing to do to survive.
50 people wake up in a circle, and discover that if they move they will be killed. They also discover that every few minutes another person will also be killed. Through experimentation they discover that they have to vote to decide who dies every round. The group quickly dissolves into factions of those willing to save others, and those willing to kill in order to survive.
With the way the plot is set up, there is limited movement during the entire movie. It focuses not just mostly on, but almost completely on dialogue. The conversations of the characters as they discover what is going on, and decide how to proceed is how the tension is built and maintained. The first handful of kills happens rather rapidly to decrease the number to a more manageable amount. However the movie does keep a rather large group around for awhile to allow the plot to unfold.
The movie does manage to keep you on edge the entire time, only a few deaths are really expected, otherwise you feel a little lost as to what will come next. The group largely decides who will live and die based on their political beliefs, which is realistic, though slightly annoying to watch at times. The movie breaks down into a lot of right vs left arguments over politics. Again it is believable, but at the same time a lot of people could argue that they get enough of it.
Circle really reaches it’s apex towards the end, the question of whether or not the “good” guys are actually good or not shines through at the end. It brings the whole thing to a head, and remains intense the whole way through.
Regardless of where you end up with this movie though, the cast does a great job. It is not easy to create a movie that is compelling in this type of setting. The movie, while not perfect, does a lot with the challenges they gave themselves. They also really stick to it, there isn’t a lot of excuses used to add more action. Other than a few moments at the end, the movie stands by the premise of people just standing in a circle talking, and being picked off one by one.
I want to like this movie more, and to give it a better “review”. The problem is that it hampers itself in too many ways. The acting is great, and the overall ideas that are presented are noteworthy. The problem is the movie is so bogged down in politics to get there that it seems almost preachy at times. The questions about human nature, and the lengths we are willing to go to survive are weighed down in other discussions. It’s an interesting movie, one worth watching. However I can’t help feeling like it could have been more.