The Circle, rated PG-13

Starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, Ellar Coltrane, Glenne Headly, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt

Austin Family Critical Rating: 3½ of 5 stars

Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 3½ of 5 stars

James Ponsoldt’s The Circle, based on the novel by Dave Eggers, is an intriguing thriller with lots of ideas on its mind, with echoes of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002) and The Truman Show (1998) in its commentary on privacy and media consumption.

Emma Watson stars as Mae, a young woman who longs to work at The Circle, an Apple-like technology company run by the charismatic Bailey (Tom Hanks). When she lands a job there, she quickly becomes a poster child for the necessity of 24-hour surveillance, after cameras lead to her rescue from a near-fatal kayaking accident. As The Circle expands its reach, those who have no interest in participating in the technological world, such as Mae’s friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane, from Richard Linklater’s Boyhood) and her parents, are left to pay a price.

The Circle is a terrifying look at what could happen if a tech company holds too much influence over people’s lives. What rings most true is that The Circle doesn’t appear sinister – it’s all smiling faces, suggestions over rules and fueled by positive, world-building rhetoric. Ultimately, the film hints at a mystery that is never quite realized – the resolution is a little too easy and doesn’t completely do justice to the world the movie creates in the first act.

Ponsoldt has made two outstanding films, The Spectacular Now (2013) and The End of the Tour (2015), and although The Circle doesn’t reach the heights of those films, it still warrants a trip to the cinema. And the cast is full of great surprises, not the least of which is the late Bill Paxton as Mae’s father.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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