Film / Circle

Death is inevitable. It's just a fact of life. People die every day, and life goes on.

But what if you were forced to judge who lives and who dies? How would you use that power?

Fifty people wake up in a darkened room, all strangers, from all walks of life, arranged in a circle around a sinister device that kills one of them every two minutes, or if any of them try to leave. Before long, they figure out that they can influence which person the device kills next... and the debate of whose life is worthy of saving begins in earnest.

Circle (2015) is an American psychological thriller film directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione. It stars Carter Jenkins, Julie Benz, Lawrence Kao, Allegra Masters, and many others in an ensemble cast.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Acceptable Targets: invoked Deconstructed. Choosing based on ethnic stereotypes or class divisions or any other divisive topic gets innocent (and not-so-innocent) people killed.
  • Alien Abduction: The prevailing theory about why everyone is there. It turns out to be correct.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: One man is seen repeatedly, neurotically counting down the seconds it takes for the lightning bolt to cap the person with the most votes.
    • The Silent Man could be considered this, given that his behavior was unusual and his motives were only speculated upon by Eric.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The only explanation we ever get for anything happening in the film is pure speculation by the characters.
  • Angry Black Man: The main black person of the circle starts angrily complaining that voting system has become racist. He calms down after the Racist Cop is killed.
  • Asshole Victim: Several of the characters get zapped while on a tear about their own prejudiced point of view or after revealing some major sin from their past.
    • The most notable examples are Raoul the Domestic Abuser, the Racist Cop, the Cynical Atheist, the Lawyer, and the Rich Banker.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Discussed by the African American man, who jokingly suggests that everyone kill off all the black people first.
  • Berserk Button: The Soldier gets seriously pissed off at the Rich Banker's eagerness to kill the Little Girl, and so he organizes his group to kill him off next.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Eric tricks the Little Girl into killing herself for the baby while he votes for the Pregnant Woman. Then he and the unborn fetus are the only survivors left. Eric votes for the baby and is returned to Earth. The ending at first seems like a downer ending because the master manipulator survives, but it becomes bittersweet when Eric finds the survivors of other circles and discovers that they primarily consist of children and pregnant women.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Some of the characters who seem affable at first slowly reveal their true, prejudiced nature after being pushed far enough.
    • Eric was seemingly an intelligent, kindhearted young man. He was the first one to protect the Young Pregnant Woman and the Little Girl, and he's the one who discovers the plan by the pragmatists who want to kill the Young Pregnant Woman and the Little Girl and rallies a group of people to protect them. However, Eric turned out to be a master manipulator who effortlessly played everyone and won his survival.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The device kills people without leaving a mark on them.
  • Bottle Episode: Aside from a short scene at the end, the entire scene is about a group of people standing still in a dark room.
  • Break the Haughty: The Rude Atheist and the Rich Banker both have minor breakdowns with the knowledge that they would be the next to die.
  • Call-Back: Early on, someone theorizes that the Pregnant Woman would count as two people. At the end, when she dies, her fetus ties with Eric.
  • Children Are Innocent: One of the would-be victims is a ten-year-old girl.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Fake Husband and the Fake Wife are manipulated and blackmailed by both the protectors and the pragmatists to vote off certain members. When both groups realize they are lying about being married they become targets instead of swing voters.
  • Closed Circle: A literal example here, as the people are trapped in a circle that will kill them if they try to leave.
  • The Cynic: The Rude Atheist and the Asian Kid believe that all of them are going to die.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Asian Kid, and the Lawyer
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • The first woman to wake up is a young, average looking, but still pretty woman who has all the makings of being the Final Girl. She's quickly cast aside once the other survivors start waking up and is reduced to being another background survivor. She's later offed unceremoniously during the last half-hour of the movie.
    • Man 1 is the first character to figure out how the circle works, and he clearly seems like a level-headed character capable of keeping everyone—nope. He's the third victim.
    • College Guy is the first one to figure out how to buy everyone time and tries to figure out how and why everything's happening. And while his methods seemed extreme, he seemed to know what he was doing. So naturally, he dies early on too.
    • The Soldier takes on a sort of leadership role throughout the game. He becomes the leader of the group fighting for the survival of the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman. However, he gets killed right before the climax in a 4-way tie.
  • Dead Star Walking: Both College Guy and Wife are portrayed by well-known TV actors. Neither of them survive, and the former was killed before the halfway mark.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A lot of people are killed simply due to being a category the others dislike or pissing them off somehow.
  • Domestic Abuse: The Tattooed Man beat up his girlfriend, as revealed by the Cop. This gets him killed.
  • Dwindling Party: Every two minutes, someone dies.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Many characters end up joining the group of pragmatists even if they won't vote to kill the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman. They do this because they either want to survive or because they want to see their family again. The most notable examples of relatively nice characters joining this group are: The Fake Husband, the Fake Wife, the Beautiful Blonde Woman, and the Lesbian.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Occasionally, we won't even see when the orb zaps someone to death—which makes it all the more shocking when someone unexpected dies.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Explored throughout the film. Nobody is totally good, and very few are irredeemable scumbags.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The Racist Cop and the Rude Atheist.
  • Heroic Suicide: A few characters volunteer to be killed to buy the others more time.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Several times, one character argues heatedly for why another particular character deserves to die next - only to find that everyone else is so disgusted by their hateful rant that they are the next one to die instead.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The atheist is rude, cynical and mocks other people for believing in God.
  • Hope Spot: When it's just Eric, the Little Girl, and the Young Pregnant Woman left the audience is relieved that one of the two girls is going to survive. However, Eric was faking his kindness the whole time and killed both of them.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Eric sarcastically congratulates the aliens for proving this. Turns out he's wrong - it seems like the members of a lot of the other circles really did die to save a child or a pregnant woman. There are at least 3 men visible though.
  • Hyper Awareness: One thing that helps Eric get so far in the circle is that he intelligently observes all the actions and interactions of the different players. He spots the man who votes for the Young Pregnant Woman from across the room, and he quickly picks up on the fact that the pragmatists had formed an alliance to kill those protecting the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman. He even notices the silent man that never votes.
  • Hypocrite: The Rich Banker advocated allowing those with children to live longer than those who didn't. Yet he was one of the main people to also push for killing the Young Pregnant Woman and the Little Girl.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Comes down to this in many cases. The Husband says this word-for-word when he switches sides to prevent his wife from being killed next.
  • I Have a Family: The Rich Banker attempts to earn sympathy from the other characters by informing the group he has seven children. It works to a certain extent. Up until the two sides are established, people with children managed to last a bit longer than those who said they didn't have any.
  • Infant Immortality: Discussed at length due to the presence of a ten-year-old girl and a pregnant woman, and the knowledge that at least one will be sentenced to death. In the end, neither survive, and the woman's fetus is specifically killed by the last survivor.
  • Jerkass: While a majority of the cast consists of prejudiced characters or people with flaws, Atheist, the Lawyer, and the Rich Man stand out the most.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Asian Kid is more in line with the pragmatic group, but he's usually the first to call out other people's biases. He mocks the Rich Banker's idea of saving people based on class, and defends the Lesbian against the Lawyer.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Some characters, such as College Guy and Bearded Man, are capable of committing hard, yet logical choices that get some characters killed in order to prolong the other characters' chances of survival.
  • Karma Houdini: Assuming the aliens didn't kill Eric after he was released, he gets off scott-free for killing Pregnant Woman's baby and convincing the young girl to kill herself.
  • Kill 'em All: The only survivor by the end of the film is Eric, and a small group of survivors who are only revealed in the very last scene.
  • Kill the Cutie: Most notably the Minister, Sean, and the Little Girl.
  • Liar Revealed: A man and a woman lie about being husband and wife in order to get sympathy from the other members of the circle. They are eventually exposed by the Bearded Guy and the Lesbian. The man is then killed and the woman is blackmailed into joining the pragmatic side.
  • Manipulative Bastard: From the moment Eric knows the rules of the circle nobody else in the circle had a chance. He effortlessly played every single player from beginning to end.
  • Nice Guy: Soldier, Cancer Survivor Lady, One-Armed Man, and Spanish Translator. These four take a strong stance against killing the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman and never waver.
  • No Name Given: Only a handful of the characters have names, and in the credits the others are are described by phrases like Cancer Survivor, Pretty Girl, Cop, and so on.
  • Ontological Mystery: How did they get there? Why are they there?
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Several characters attempt to be this by manipulating everyone through suggestions in order to survive, but none play it quite well like how Eric does.
  • Protectorate: The Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman.
  • The Quiet One: There is one man who makes it to the final four who never voted and hadn't said a word the whole time.
  • Rich Bitch: The Rich Banker is a male version.
  • Sadist: The domestic abuser is briefly seen chuckling after the death of a woman in the circle. This is what causes the Racist Cop to notice and recognize him.
  • Sharp Dressed Man: The unnamed black guy in the grey suit. He even dies elegantly.
  • Slut-Shaming: When the Rude Atheist managed to turn half of the circle onto him, tries to make the Beautiful Blonde Woman next to him a target by interrogating her if she was a porn star and ended up making her cry. This earned him the ire of everyone in the circle and he's the next to die.
  • Smug Snake: The Homophobic Lawyer.
  • Sole Survivor: The premise of the Circle runs on the idea that only one person in the circle can survive.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: The Fake Husband was very reluctant to vote for the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman, but eventually caved. When he and the Fake Wife get caught lying he blames the lie on her and tells everyone to kill her. They kill him instead.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye:
    • Some characters are killed off after only having a few (or no) lines.
    • Inverted as well. Some characters, most notably Beth, are killed immediately after giving us a huge infodump.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Eric. When it is down to him, the Girl, and the Pregnant Woman, he tricks the Girl into killing herself and votes to kill the Pregnant Woman. When he ties with the latter's (still-living) fetus, he votes to kill the fetus as well.
    • Near the end of the film the players are split into two groups. The protectors: a group of individuals who want to protect the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman. The pragmatists: a group of individuals who want to kill the Little Girl and the Young Pregnant Woman in order to give everyone in the circle a better chance at survival.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Two members of the group know each other because they are having an affair. In this case it appears they actually do love each other. When they tie in votes they decide to die together.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The premise of the movie.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Circle