Many thanks to filmmakers Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione for finally giving genre fans a pretty worthwhile triple feature of films with shapes as the title. Circle joins the likes of Vincenzo Natali's Cube and Christopher Smith's Triangle as a trilogy of films that are sure to challenge their viewers in some way or another.
Cirlce places 50 strangers in a circular pattern with a black orb in the middle. Each person is standing on a red circle that they cannot step off of and cannot touch anyone around them, less they be shocked and killed by the watchful orb in the center of the room. Every two minutes a countdown ends with one of the remaining strangers being shocked and killed. Quickly, they realize that something has been implanted in their hands that controls an arrow (each person can only see the arrow that they control) that allows them to point and vote for one of the other strangers and the person with the most votes is then killed. Personalities and tensions clash as the strangers plead and argue to decide who deserves to be the last one standing.
Not a single judgmental stone is left unturned in Hann and Miscione's debut feature. The mechanisms of the plot are dependent on the judgements every last one of us face on a day to day basis, but with life or death stakes. Eventually our strangers connect the dots and assume that the reason they are there is to assess the value of the lives around them in order to decide who should be spared. Naturally, not everyone is as open to giving up their lives for anyone, let alone a child or a pregnant mother and no matter what way you slice it, listening to a group of people debate killing a mother and her unborn child, is kind of riveting.
As you can imagine racism, homophobia, religion, and class all fuel the fire at one point or another lending to one fascinating- if sometimes under/overwritten- argument after another. At times, there's no surprise to who will be offed next and others its a punchline or ominous reveal to the issue at hand before moving on to the next. To a point, the predicability becomes the film's charm. However, the tension of each scene is sometimes deflated by an early reveal of how everyone ended up where they are- an aspect that quickly becomes the least interesting thing the movie has going for it.
Hann and Miscione's script takes on conveying sensitive issues at the risk of being offensive and potentially alienating of certain viewers, so it's hard not to give a nod to their boldness to really go there. Enjoyment is hinged entirely on the verbal sparring of the characters as it really is just a dwindling number of people standing around and talking for an hour and half. In the end, Circle's commentary about human self preservation and how we value other's lives is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face, but with the proper expectations it packs a clever punch.