Fifty Angry Men [Review: Circle]


Fifty people awake to find they are standing on glowing red spots in a circle in a dark room. They quickly learn that they are playing a deadly game – every few minutes one person is killed instantly by a shock from the hemisphere in the centre, their body then dragged out into the darkness by unseen forces. If they step off their circles they also die. It takes them a few rounds, and a few deaths, to understand that while they cannot prevent the scheduled rounds, they can choose who dies in each round.

Circle is a literal, minimalist version of the balloon debate – if the balloon is losing altitude and you can’t all survive, who gets chucked out of the balloon and how do you persuade others to do the chucking. The starting fifty are diverse enough to (loosely) represent all of humanity. As the players learn how to vote for each other, alliances and dividing lines appear around age, race, gender, sexuality, politics and profession. Players try to use this to their advantage, but if they seem too manipulative then other players may turn on them next.


This is a low-budget, one-room, concept movie – The Hunger Games meets Exam meets Cube (links are to my reviews of these films) with a dash of Lord of the Flies and a twist of Twelve Angry Men. While the scenario is contrived, even compared to other one-room movies, the writers and directors, Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione, have hit on a simple but effective concept which builds tension over and over again, and the script stands up well covering a lot of ground.

The main expense for this film was probably the cast of fifty actors - all unknown but certainly up to the job, so the conflict is believable. There's a lot of death, it's sudden and brutal although not too bloody, and while some deaths are shown directly many are communicated through reaction shots. The ending isn't easily predictable, and left me with a lot to think about. The film could be a metaphor for political extremism, media bias or the rise of prejudice in general, and of course it's even more relevant in the age of Reality TV.

Two important questions are left unanswered: when does the board game version come out, and how many batteries will it require?

To disambiguate, this is low-budget movie Circle (2015) – not the movie of Dave Eggers’ internet parody novel The Circle (2017).

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