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Circle is the perfect movie to encapsulate this election season. Mind you, this movie has nothing to do with politics. But it is all about backstabbing and xenophobia. This is you, America.

Circle starts with 50 people who wake up in a mysterious dark room in two lines of a circle around a large black dome with strange red lights on the floor. Whenever someone tries to move from their circle or touch someone else, a warning alarm beeps. Heed the warning or suffer the consequences. If you step outside of your circle, the dome emits a bolt of energy and you are instantly dead.

The use of sound is an astounding addition to the movie. Pay attention to those cues.

Slowly, people start to wake up, but they have no recollection of what happened. Some people are frantic and find out one misstep (off your circle) is fatal. Regardless the method, someone must die every two minutes. A countdown signals the impending doom before the dome kills someone.

Circle completely fucks with your mind, but in a consensual manner.

Although the complete picture is still blurry, the pieces of the puzzle start to come together within the first 15 minutes. Everyone starts to remember that ships appeared in the sky and abducted people from the streets—referred to as a “giant space vacuum.” No one saw aliens or can recall anything else though. Everything just went dark and then they woke up in the ship. As this group of strangers tries to understand what happened, people are dying every two minutes. It is insanely tense.

Strangers

The veil of mystery is pulled back a bit when the people discover they are the ones who are determining who dies. Every person has an implant in their hand that enables them to vote for who will be executed. But you can only see who you are voting for—giving the appearance of anonymity.

Chaos explodes and everything descends into madness when people find out they have the power. Cliques emerge quickly and the initial strategy is to execute the elderly first in order to buy time. I’m not spoiling anything because this is the simple setup that’s outlined in the opening.

If this isn’t enough to hook you into watching, then perhaps you may be swayed by the fact that Circle is currently streaming on Netflix. I have watched this movie several times already and enjoyed it equally each time. This is unadulterated entertainment deserving of your eyeballs.

It is also a thought experiment to imagine how you would act and react in this situation.

The directions traveled in this movie are handled magnificently with a deft hand by writers-directors Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione. This is exactly how I think this would unravel in real life with everything descending into madness and manipulation. What would you do to try to save yourself? Is it even possible to save yourself? Would you give up in the face of these overwhelming odds?

As you can imagine, everything is on the table for judgment. Moral superiority becomes a recurring theme as people try to do anything they can to gain the high ground. Surprisingly, Circle has more layers than you might expect from a sci-fi thriller because it’s not afraid to deal with the human emotions involved in this mindfuck. People would panic, become paranoid, and act selfish.

Ultimately, this is a process of elimination with one potential survivor.

Reaction

In an attempt to avoid any personal associations, most people don’t divulge their names. Some have names, which includes the character who is essentially the audience’s perspective—Eric, played by Michael Nardelli. Most characters are stereotypes or stand-ins representing certain groups. These people are given names like The Pregnant Girl, The Little Girl, The Soldier, The Athiest, The One-Armed Man, The Cancer Survivor, The Rich Man, The Asian Kid, The African American Man, The Hispanic Man, The Lesbian, The Lawyer, The Doctor, The Deacon, The College Guy, The Tattooed Man, The Bearded Man, and much more. As Jack Horner said in Boogie Nights, “Those are some great names!”

While the writing is the star of this movie, the ensemble cast is shockingly good with a few notable performances. Although half of the fun might come from watching the events unfold, Circle goes down smooth on a second viewing. With a seemingly low budget, simple story, and understated effects, Circle could conceivably be a play. The unique narrative is the heart of this movie.

Perhaps the most vital aspect of Circle is that it establishes the stakes early and often.

The collective decisions of these people determine their own fates.

In a few months, people in American will pretend that their votes are important. In our reality, it doesn’t make a difference. Our choice is an illusion because it’s a decision between two options that are actually the same. But choice is a principal plot point of Circle. How deep does your self-preservation run? The fight-or-flight instincts play out in fascinating ways in this story. I’m not saying that I would welcome our alien overlords and this high-stakes game of Survivor. However, it would be a nice change to live in a world (even if it’s a sci-fi dystopia) where one vote equals one vote.

Circle: where your vote actually matters!

It is a superb study of human nature.

Wake Up

4 out of 5 stars

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