Circle film review – how will you choose if only 1 of you survives?


Have you watched ‘Circle’ yet? In this indie sci-fi thriller about ethics, fifty doomed people in a circle decide which person they would pick to survive…

I feel a bit let down that I watched Circle on my own. It only had 1.5 stars on Netflix but I liked the idea of a sci-fi thriller about human nature, so I gave it a go. When it ended I really wanted to have a conversation about it. Maybe I can have a conversation with you?

The sci-fi element of this film is quickly apparent when the film opens to fifty people standing in a circle controlled by unfamiliar technology. They’re from all walks of life, seemingly with nothing in common. They don’t know how they got there. Who created the technology? Why was the circle created in the first place? One key element of the circle’s purpose soon becomes clear – every two minutes, a buzzer sounds and someone dies.

As the people in the circle discover they can swing the vote to remove the random element from the timed deaths, they become convinced that only one person can walk away from this nightmare. Who most deserves to be the last one standing? Conversely, does anyone deserve to die? Is this a choice that people can allow themselves to make? What if someone’s survival depends on it? What if that person isn’t you?

With low-budget SFX working in its favour rather than against it, Circle is a conversation about morals, ethics and human nature dressed up as a sci-fi psychological thriller. In fact, the topics it brings up could do with more conversation than the film’s short running time of 89 minutes allows for. Race, orientation and faith are brought to the fore as people discuss the validity of their judgments with varying degrees of subjectivity and self-interest, grappling with conflicting instincts for altruism and survival. It’s not unlike an episode of Black Mirror – thoughtful entertainment that makes you question humanity a little bit.

Could you watch a sci-fi film where people just sort of talk at each other? In a very real sense, the film is one long conversation punctuated by someone dying every two minutes, but the pace feels electric at times and the diverse cast (a fifth of the actors being people of colour, a step up from a typical blockbuster) deliver their performances with nuance. You’re going to get involved.

The ending? Oh, people talk about the ending, but I won’t do that here. I’ll save that for anyone who’s seen the film. I just wish I hadn’t watched it alone, is the thing.

Curse you, Netflix reviewers, and your misleading 1.5 stars…

Aw, don’t worry guys, I’m just joshing. You’ll be safe enough from me if we ever meet in a circle.

You do believe me, don’t you?