“Circle” (2015) – Movie Review

From IMDB:

Held captive and faced with their imminent executions, fifty strangers are forced to choose the one person among them who deserves to live.

Written and Directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione

Cast includes: Julie Benz, Mercy Malick, Carter Jenkins, Molly Jackson, Michael Nardelli, Sara Sanderson and 44 others.

circle

Do you remember back in Jr. High/Middle School, probably in your social studies class, you were forced to play a game called “Lifeboat?”

Yeah. That is essentially what we’ve got going on in Circle. But the filmmakers dress it up a bit by making the whole thing some sort of experiment played by an invading alien force, using FIFTY people of various diversity.

We’ve got the whole gamut of options to choose from this time: Soldier, business man, married couple, pregnant lady, pregnant lady’s ten-ish year old child, a guy missing an arm, a cop, a college student, etc, but to dress it up for the 21st century we’ve sweetened the pot with a married lesbian, illegal immigrant that doesn’t speak English, maybe-porn actress, evil banker, hippie California guy, etc.

Oh, and one more thing: in Lifeboat, you get to choose maybe 12 people who can fit in the boat, but here it’s a bit different. Here, every couple of minutes they are forced to vote for someone to be eliminated from the competition.

That means they die. Standing on dots arranged in the titular geometric pattern, then all maneuver an arrow on the ground to vote for someone to die.

And only you can see where your arrow is pointing. The ultimate secret ballot.

If there’s a tie, someone can change their vote, or they both die. Step off your dot: you die. Touch someone else: you die. You can’t vote for yourself. but you don’t have to vote, but if nobody votes, somebody random dies.

Until only ONE person is left.

At least that is the logic the fifty come to accept. Only one of them can survive.

One.

So we have just over an hour of barely concealed social justice discussions, with rationale being tossed back and forth about how to choose who to kill while they try to figure out if there is any way for them to end the game. Once they figure out the rules, though, the discussion quickly turns into a conversation about deciding whether they should choose who will live at the end or simply allow their discussions to lead to a conclusion.

At times, watching the discussion between votes was reminiscent of the tribal councils on “Survivor,” except when you get voted off the island here, you really get voted off.

And it is, in a morbidly hilarious way, interesting to watch some people talk themselves into safety and then into death in the same sentence. All-to-often, sound reasoning and consensus-building veers into assuming that everyone shares your prejudices, resulting in finding yourself out of the game.

You know: dead.

Oh, and remember the whole alien thing I mentioned in passing way back at the beginning? Noticed how I haven’t mentioned it since?

Yep. That’s how much attention is paid to it during the film. Aside from a few accusations thrown at the military guy about how he had to know about what was going on because the government had to know about the alien invasion, and then a CG shot of some alien spaceships after the “winner” is freed at the end of the movie, there’s no actual importance to their tormentors being aliens. Despite all the cries of “this is what they want us to do,” “they” could simply refer to some weird cult or government scientists, not an alien species.

So, since the aliens have no real impact on the Circle and what happens, aside from setting it up, where does the terror come from? Where it always comes from: humanity’s heart.

Yes, the tortured logic and twisted discussion trying to justify why you should be left alive while anyone else should be condemned to death is a process that could only take place in the heart of mankind. Alliances form and are broken as the game goes on, but always, behind it all, is the basic fundamental tenet that man is capable of atrocities both great and small. From wars that engulf the planet to the choice to condemn a fetus to death as the last obstacle to their freedom is an ability innate in humanity, one that will never be purged from species, any more than we can rid ourselves from our fear of what lurks in the dark.

Survival. The need to survive.

What would you do? What would you really do, when push came to shove?.

So when I compared this movie to the old Lifeboat game, I was only giving you half the story. The other half is from that great conceptual horror masterpiece, Saw. You have control over your fate. You can choose to try to kill others to keep yourself alive, or you can end your time in the game by simply walking away.

Die.

Or try to Live.

While I can’t give this movie a truly solid recommend, I can recommend it as a way to kill an hour listening to stereotypes of all stripes espousing their philosophy of who is worthy/unworthy and why? It is entertaining in that sense, but other than that, it’s just a standard stuck-in-a-room horror movie.

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