Held captive and faced with their imminent executions, fifty strangers are forced to choose the one person among them who deserves to live.
Alright, I am a real sucker for these trapped-in-a-room style movies. Even if they’re no good, something really draws me into movies like this, Cube, The Interview and so many others, I have no idea what give them their appeal. That said, this one might have broken that streak, simply by being terrible. Written and Directed by Aaron Hann, and Mario Miscione, in their first departure from a TV show I’ve never heard of, Circle is an incoherent mess that goes on for way longer than it should. At an 87 minute run time, that’s saying something. Where Cube is intelligent, and genuinely interesting, this movie is full of false, overly simplistic moral choices made by cartoon-level ludicrous characters.
One of the biggest problems this movie faces is it’s insanely huge ensemble cast. There are almost too many characters to call it an ensemble, at a whopping 50 people. Sure, a large number of them get killed off in rapid succession pretty quickly, but they still try and make you care about more than 30 people at a time, and they try to rapidly characterize every single one of them. When you try and put character into that many people, you wind up stereotyping and making the evil among them look like super villains. There are a few familiar faces amongst the crowd, but even that doesn’t help. Most recognizable is Julie Benz (Dexter), but she’s not really doing much here, the movie tries to focus on everyone all at once and loses any potential for a strong performance. The movie’s Wikipedia page says “…it was inspired by the 1957 drama 12 Angry Men” which feels a lot like something that the film makers wrote, because that movie is great and has less than 50 people in the “ensemble”.
The other issue that comes up are the different, insane, moral arguments that come up. The prisoners (who, by the way, are all credited as their costume because it’s hard to name 50 people), try and decide who should get blasted by the weird CC camera in the middle of the room, and so it leads to really uncomfortable moralistic conversations about gay people, about single moms, people on welfare, elderly people and every other minority that can be singled out. It seems to be putting all of these things forward to make some kind of intellectual statement, but because the movie has so many characters and so short a run time, it all comes of very shallow and meaningless in the end. All of the characters that the film tries to develop wind up dead before they can really do so. There are two characters who speak Spanish, and one whispers to the other in a way that makes it look like it might be significant, but both are killed before anything comes of it.
Circles seems to fancy itself a deep, intelligent film with some really important things to say, but the things that it says are, at this stage in history, common knowledge and points that don’t need to be made by movies like this one at this point. The ideas aren’t exactly progressive, and it’s very clear who you’re supposed to root for and who you’re not. However, the moral attitudes, and dislike of characters doesn’t make a lot of sense, some characters last an insanely long time despite being despicable, and so it’s never really clear who the real bad people are. The internal logic just doesn’t make any sense, and I’m pretty sure the time between rounds changes. All of that, plus an ending that throws everything into the garbage and amounts to nothing, with no questions answered, really make this movie fall flat.
Honestly, there are a lot of movies like this, and all of them are better. So, give a Cube a watch, even Phonebooth is a bit more fun than this. It’s a bit too smart for its own good, and not really worth your time. Skip.