On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at minimalist sci-fi horror/thriller, Circle!
When fifty strangers wake to find themselves gathered and trapped in a small, dark room, there’s seemingly no way out but a swift, brutal death for everyone. But, as their numbers quickly begin to dwindle, they figure out the subtle rules at play that will determine which one of them will be the sole survivor in Circle.
BIG CAST, TIGHT CONCEPT
Circle, from the writing-directing pair of Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione, is a low-budget, high-concept movie that could have easily gone horrifically wrong in a number of ways…but somehow it never does.
The cast is massive–bloated, really. Fifty characters with no distinct lead is a tough sell. Not everyone has a name, and key characters stick around longer than others. But this is a numbers game where we don’t get to know much of anything about these characters except how they act and speak as individuals until the very moment they drop dead.
Such a thing could have resulted in bland, uninteresting characters with no depth to them. It could have resulted in performances that are over-the-top and more distracting that engaging. But the dialog is tight and character defining on its own. And the performances of its actors feel natural if still somewhat heightened.
Casting and directing the right people in just a few roles is a daunting task. But Hann and Miscione manage to deftly handle fifty individuals, and as one large group.
On top of this, the setting itself is static. We almost never leave the confines of this small, dimly lit room. But there’s enough visual effects and subtle design work to keep it from being too simple and bland. This was a set designed to keep your attention focused entirely on this massive group of talking heads, and it works. It’s just eerie and unnatural enough to keep you guessing as to where and what it is. But it’s a feeling you’ll keep in the back of your mind while you stay focused on the increasing tension between a group of people who know, at best, that everybody but one is going to die.
Because while there is this obvious, glaring mystery hanging over the movie’s collective head, Circle is entirely about the characters. While answers do come and the results are more than satisfactory, what truly matters is how these characters interact with one another.
From the moment everyone wakes to find themselves in the titular circle, they’re struggling with the absolute confusion and terror of being somewhere they don’t know or remember getting to. They’re forced to deal with their own mortality. They’re forced to somehow uncover and fight for a way to stay alive.
Realistically, this would likely be over in a matter of minutes as panicked action would kill off the majority of them. Maybe those fortunate few paralyzed by fear or somehow capable of watching for the mistakes of others before acting themselves might survive a bit longer. But a realistic portrayal wouldn’t exactly make for a watchable movie.
And Circle is more than watchable. It’s a bit insightful. A bit comical–in a fairly dark manner, of course. And it’s entirely gripping from start to finish, especially upon your first viewing. So many questions are left to linger. So many
serious questions are asked and forced to play out, some in unexpected ways.
Circle is a movie that would have easily suffered under the direction of a number of other directors.
It could have lost its way by focusing more on the overarching mystery than its characters and themes. It could have been lost in loud, colorful performances from actors attempting to upstage one another in an effort to make the
most out of their brief, limited screen time. It all could have simply been a dull experience with no tension, suspense,
and genuine moments of heartache and anger.
But the fortunate truth is that Circle is that good. It’s original in its concept and execution. It’s gripping from start to finish. And it’ll leave you wanting more but without feeling as if you’ve somehow been left shortchanged.
Circle certainly isn’t for everyone. This is a movie where very little happens on screen. It’s almost as minimalist as the
concept could possibly be. And this lack of action or effects or much of anything else might turn off quite a few people.
But for those looking for something completely different, for a movie that gives it its all in presenting a series of strong character moments and difficult choices, then Circle is definitely the one you’ll want to CHILL with the first chance you get.