Fifty people wake up in a room, trapped standing on circles on the ground while an orb picks them off one by one. Soon they realize that they can vote for who dies next and a vicious power struggle for survival takes place in which only one person can come out alive, if anyone makes it out at all.
At first glance this film seems like pretty typical Saw-esque horror fare, characters drop one by one as they try to solve their predicament in seemingly logical and ethical ways. But where a lot of those films suffer from 'torture porn' syndrome, IE making entertainment out of cruel and inhuman grotesqueries and human suffering, Circle probes a little bit deeper and doesn't make the constant deaths, though occasionally amusing, the focal point of interest. The deaths are all clean and it never becomes sadistic or sickening, which I appreciate. I think that this film has a lot to say and it gets its points across in a mind-blowing fashion in my opinion. Once the characters figure out what is going on in the room, they all try different tactics to stay alive and to present their ethical ideas to the rest of the group. Prejudices emerge. They could easily feel clichéd but they don't, and one reason for this is that the film feels allegorical in its denouement. It would seem unlikely that so many people from seemingly every different walk of life would wind up in that room together, but it's important to the point that I think the film is trying to make. I think that every moral and ethical idea presented is relevant and all of the characters add something new to the 'idea' of the film. As political sides emerge and different viewpoints clash, it becomes clear that this group of people is sort of like a microcosm of our modern world. It becomes a study in sociology, psychology, morality and Darwinism. Human beings tend to hold their hatred for each other inside and never let others see it. But when life and death are at stake, when everyone's back is against the wall, and when the power to kill another to save yourself is as easy as closing one's fist, how would people really react? I think it's realistic in it's portrayal of seemingly good people turning on each other. Granted it's not totally nihilistic. A lot of them want someone to survive at the end who deserves it, but the group spends so much time bickering and arguing with each other, killing each other through frustration and anger, and even through strategy in trying to survive that they end up wiping out most of the best people early on. Human beings are traded like pawns in a game as strategies come head to head. And in the end, who walks away the winner out of all of the chaos that we humans put ourselves and each other through with our endless judgments of each other and our pointless struggle to the top of the food chain?
HERE BE SPOILERS
The psychopath. The manipulator. The deceiver. The smartest and least ethically bound out of all of them takes the grand prize. If this isn't a metaphor for the elite in our society then I don't know what is. He pretends to be on the side of the weakest in the room, promising to sacrifice himself for them if one of them can do the same. But then he turns on them, survival instincts kicking in. How many people would have done the same in his position? Way too many in this world. His victory totally negates the sacrifices of all of those who came before him, because it's totally unethical. But it makes the movie as a whole mean so much more because of that negation.
But going back to one of the main themes of the movie, is it really our place to judge him? As he stands amidst a group of survivors, we see that they are mostly children and pregnant women. If the aliens are trying to purify the world down to 2 percent of our current population, wouldn't the new world need some strong, smart people to lead the needy and the weak? It really makes you think. And that's why I think this film is great. It makes you think not only about society and the dilemmas humans face as a whole but it asks you to take a look at your own judgements and values and ask whether or not they are really what is best for others and for society. Personally I do think Eric is evil though. We're all faced with the eventuality of our own death, maybe all we can do is live truly good lives and hope that the world that is left after we are gone is a better one. But we need to watch out for those manipulators and evildoers at the top of the pile or they will take everything we've struggled for centuries to achieve.
Overall this is a very disturbing film, but a poignant one. It brings up a lot of interesting questions about human nature and provides no easy answers. This is a bold film, a challenging film, and a film not for everyone, but if you can stomach the subject matter I highly recommend it.