the circle movie connections

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: James Ponsoldt’s The Circle.)

So far on Movie Mixtape, we’ve danced with a beast and tangoed with Scarlett Johansson’s ghost, and now we’re dipping our toes in a dystopia that feels a bit closer to our home screens.

Based on the Dave Eggers novel, The Circle sees entry-level tech employee Mae Holland (Emma Watson) swimming through the hipster-bait open office of a Hooli-esque search engine company. Her life perks up as she rises through the ranks of the company, but success is a matter of compromising. Mae has to trade away something that most of us trade away everyday by using Facebook and Twitter and Instagram: her private life. At the heart of the company is its rock star founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) who wants to help society by making it more open and free.

Yes, the whole thing is one big trigger for introverts. It’s also a case of too-good-to-be-true revealing its price tag.

the circle movie connections devil's advocate

The Devil’s Advocate

Always remember to read the fine print. The Devil’s Advocate is the perfect message movie about winning everything in life while losing your soul. A real Matthew 16:26 type situation.

As Kevin Lomax, Keanu Reeves smooth-talks his way through Floridian court rooms and Manhattan murder cases by twisting the letter of the law and his own moral compass. The American Dream is handed to him and his wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron) on a silver platter. The gorgeous apartment. The massive salary. The high life. The only catch is that they’re working for Satan (played by Al Pacino, doing some of the best scream-acting of his career). Like The Circle, it presents a corporate reality where being a team player in a deeply flawed, unethical system, is the key to success, and the whole world is on the line.

the circle movie connections tomorrow never dies

Tomorrow Never Dies

Speaking of which, there’s an unmistakable Bond villain quality to Tom Hanks’ Eamon, who exudes evil as benevolence. A mad genius who sees beyond society as it is to what it could be if “perfected.” Like a fictional Elon Musk.

Bond’s nemeses have been toying with tech for a half-century, but the grandest (dumbest?) experiment with global social tools came from Tomorrow Never Dies‘ Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a Rupert Murdoch figure who angled to start a major war in order to boost profits for his media empire. It turns out that unchecked power over the informational flow isn’t a good idea. Neither is getting lax on missile security.

the circle movie connections hackers

Hackers

Travel with me now, 22 years into the past, to a magical time when floppy disks were king, hacking into the FBI only took typing super fast, and modems were laughably slow. It’s fascinating to get a double-feature view of Zero Cool (Johnny Miller), Acid Burn (Angelina Jolie), and the gang matching wits with the skateboarding corporate hacker The Plague (Fisher Stevens) as the latter attempts to extort millions by threatening the ballast programs on oil tankers.

Hackers is a perfect example of how films of the time treated the emergent internet, giving us a mystical view of game-changing technology that many people didn’t have access to. Ridiculous as it was even then, there’s something quaint about the film’s targets: telephone networks, street lights, banks. The internet’s nefarious intrusion is on physical spaces while everything in the era of the social network shows how far the internet has come (with us as willing conspirators) to invade our very personalities and behaviors.

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