A group of strangers wake up in two concentric circles in a dark room. Each of them stands on a red circle they can't move from or else they are immediately killed. Soon, they realize that every two minutes, someone else dies, and they have to vote to decide that person. If they don't vote, someone is killed at random. If there's a tie, they vote again or both die. Their votes are anonymous. If someone steps off their circle, the clock restarts. Only one can live - so how do they choose?
I originally thought this was some kind of horror film, but Circle is much more cerebral than that. In fact, it's not gory at all - though people are killed, it's in a very quick, out of sight, out of mind way - a strike of electricity and their body is somehow removed from the room by itself. By the fifth or sixth person, you become as accepting of the inevitability of death as the rest of the circle.
This is a dialogue-rich film with a very large cast, many of whom only get moments to tug at your heartstrings, but they succeed. It's a fish bowl portrayal of humanity: different races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, languages. It makes you constantly question who you would pick at any given moment, based purely on what people look like and what they say. Do you not vote at all, and let the omniscient being controlling the scenario choose at random? Can you really do that when you know other people will vote, thus making it not random anymore?
There is never a dull moment in this film, which for this kind of format is a necessity. Breakneck pacing results in you constantly being on your toes, never wishing they'd just get to the last two people. And the film never picks sides, either - though their are obvious antagonists, they're arguing their own truth, and it's hard to blame them for it. Besides, you as a viewer don't know these people anymore than they know each other. Do you have any more right than they do to judge?
I loved this movie. I was totally enthralled, engaged, and exhilarated, and disgusted with myself as I started to make choices, just to see if I agreed with the group. And I was impressed at how the film kept me guessing right until the end, even when I thought I knew what was going to happen. This is a film that makes you forget to breathe. Highly recommended.