Circle (2015) is a Science-Fiction Thriller written and directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione. The plot presents a group of 50 people who awaken inside a circular room, not knowing how they got there. Soon, they begin dying one at a time based on a set of rules that have been devised within the room. The film focuses on how these folks go about figuring what it takes to survive. The Circle movie cast has a lot of actors you wouldn’t recognize, and this was done on purpose. However, you will see a few familiar faces like Julie Benz, Carter Jenkins, Michael Nardelli, and David Reivers. The film depicts multiple themes which I’ll try and break down. Here’s the plot and ending of the 2015 film Circle explained.
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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
What is the Circle 2015 Movie about?
Alien invasion. There is no mystery around this. Aliens are going about randomly selecting 50 people and putting them in a room and watching the humans kill themselves. Why are the aliens doing this? Well, it could be anything – an effective way to reduce the population, a gambling game where they’re betting on who will survive, or an experiment to understand humans and their moral code. Circle makes you think what you would have done if put in that situation.
What are the rules in the movie Circle?
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Here are the primary rules.
- You can see and control only your own arrow. This is done using hands, and an arrow pointing to someone is a vote. You can’t vote for yourself. However, you can refrain from voting altogether.
- Once in two minutes, the machine in the middle kills a living person with the highest vote. Basically, votes for dead people are not counted.
- In the event of a tie, the rest can re-vote for the tied people to decide the final outcome.
- If nobody votes, a random person is killed off. (I alternately believe that when there are no votes, nothing will happen, but we never get to see that circumstance because someone panics and re-votes and that’s the nature of human beings, self-preservation at the cost of another).
Why are humans picked, why not the other species on Earth?
Well, humans are the only ones that are capable of plotting and scheming. As a species, it’s our greatest strength and our biggest weakness. While other species might not be able to assess the situation and sustain as long, the humans would seldom come up with a strategy that involves survival of the entire species. The horizon of our thoughts doesn’t extend beyond the immediate future. An example of this is how we consume the planet of its natural resources without any control because the primary aspect is short-term self-gain (remember what Agent Smith declares us to be in The Matrix?). I’m not preaching, I’m one of the said viruses. However, there are some people would operate on their moral code no matter the situation. It is this balance that can make for the game of the Circle to exist.
What are the central themes in the film Circle?
The Majority is Right – In my opinion, the primary theme is how humans create rules that divide themselves, and as a default, we prefer to be in a “majority” group. These rules are varied in nature ranging from race, to education, to jobs, to sexual orientation, to age, to faith.
Perception of Good and Bad – The supporting theme is how human morals are built to judge people based on the rules we’ve come up for ourselves. Though Good and Bad, Right and Wrong are subjective, we tend to objectify them. While one group sets their morals rigidly in stone, the other twists them around based on convenience.
Leaders and Followers – Every group has an emerging leader with people who follow them. With the emergence of multiple groups, more leaders surface. When the followers are unable to get what they need from their leaders, they turn away or on them. This is pretty much the history of mankind.
Circle Plot Explained: What is the meaning of the movie Circle?
Let’s walk through the plot to see the dynamics of the movie’s themes.
After the initial assessment of the fact that they can’t step out of their circles and that they are voting for people’s death, the group goes through a series of ideas. My theory is that the initial deaths are being caused by people moving their lights by mistake and creating a vote.
Vote for the Dead – The group tries voting for a dead person, but then there is at least one that votes for someone alive. This could have been a mistake or a disbelief in the idea of voting for the dead – “I’d rather vote for another living person, so I’m not the one to die finding out the rules”.
Don’t vote at all – The group tries this strategy, and they tie, but someone is killed off at random. As I said before, I think this was because of a panic vote by someone.
Minority: Old Die First – A young man proposes an idea that they should buy themselves time by voting out the old people first who are due for death by age. People in their 70’s and 80’s. Given the majority are younger than 70, they go with that idea. But the young dude doesn’t keep his word about the 70+, his next target become a lady in her 50’s, a cancer survivor. The middle-aged folks turn on the young dude and vote him dead.
Information is Wealth – A guy by the name Eric declares some information about his abduction – about a room full of dead people and a tractor beam. I believe he’s giving out false information because a person with insights would be safe. Another old guy tries to do the same thing but happens to say he heard the aliens talking in Chinese or Japanese. Apparently, Asian is alien enough for him and gets caught on his bluff.
Judging a Book by its Cover – They try to introduce themselves to understand if their group is random or is connected in some way. But the lady who goes first presents herself unimpressively, and a few are quick to judge her not to be worthy of a life. They even justify their vote saying “at least she didn’t have kids”.
Family Virtues – A guy named Craig figures that a group wouldn’t murder one spouse in front of another. So he lies stating that his wife is next to him and that the group should spare his wife and kill him instead. This is a well-played tactic to leverage the values people have for a family. Another couple says that they know each other and the group deduces that it’s an affair. While the affair-couple is not an immediate target, their lives are still valued lower than the married couple.
Minority: Illegal Immigrant – Someone turns on a Mexican in the room stating that he is illegally there in the USA and is reason enough for him to be the one to go next. The group argues about it, but an Asian woman is killed next. Just because many are silent, doesn’t mean they don’t have prejudices.
The Bad: Domestic Abuse – A cop calls out a guy, Raul, from an earlier case of his, where he beat up his girlfriend. The guy confesses but states that cops aren’t saints either, and his 16-year-old cousin was shot down by police. At this point, the group sees the cop as the good guy and kills Raul.
Minority: Religion – An Islamic girl who hasn’t spoken at all is the next one to go.
Minority: Race / The Bad: Racist – A black man states that all the black people are the ones that are mostly dead. He tries to play the race card and gets a lot of flack because a lot of folks from other races have died too. The cop displays a heavy tone of racism, and the group now deems him bad, and kills him.
Equal Votes. Perfect alignment of thoughts – The next suggestion is that everyone votes for the person to their right so that everyone ties. It doesn’t work, someone messes up, and there is a death. They try again, and Eric kills a guy and claims that he was going for the pregnant woman. I would like to believe that Eric triggers off a thought process here where the entire group’s attention goes towards the Pregnant woman and the kid. Eric begins his game of Chess with this move.
Moral Stand – The group splits into two. In the end, it would come to the pregnant girl and the kid, and one of them is going to have to sacrifice to let the other live. One set believes that they should leave it up the last survivors to decide. The others believe that everyone is equal in the room and should have the same chance at life, but they spin it off saying that they should kill either the kid or the girl to “make things easy for the two” – a made-up moral reason. Soon the group questions her pregnancy and how she’ll be another single mother on welfare.
Volunteering – The group calls upon volunteers. An aged man, lady, and a 16-year-old kid step out, killing themselves. They don’t want to kill anyone anymore.
Soldiers have anyway signed up to die – The group eyes the soldier who clarifies that he has already done fighting for the others in war, and he wants to go home to his family. He’s spared for the moment.
Minority: Atheist – A minster mentions God. An atheist states that if there was a God, then it was the machine in the middle. The majority believe in God and are quick to turn on him, but he escapes because of a tie-breaker.
Minority: Sex Industry / The Bad: Liar – The atheist turns on the woman next to him and claims he’s seen her in porn movies, insinuating that her profession is a reason she should be killed next. But then it becomes evident that he’s twisting things around to make her appear a shameful person and he’s killed.
People with Kids – In a room that has enough people justifying that the pregnant woman should die, there is a suggestion that people with kids have a more significant reason to live. A single woman is killed off.
Minority: Gay – One of the ladies in the room admits to being a lesbian. A rich guy turns on her real quick, saying it’s wrong for two gay women to raise a child. The problem is that his pompous-ass attitude gets in the way and he gets himself killed. Another man, whose son is gay, votes him dead.
In a random turn of events, the affair-couple tie. In a draw, there is no arbitrary kill. A re-vote occurs between the tied for the final result. In this case, no one votes so nothing happens until the couple decide to step out and kill themselves.
The Good: Contribution to Society – The next thought is who’s more worthy in terms of what they do. One man claims that he works in a bank and gives loans to people starting up their business. He doesn’t say that he also ‘denies’ loans to people starting up their business. Not getting anywhere, they kill off a Mexican woman who appears to be plotting with the illegal immigrant.
Two Leaders, Two Groups – It becomes a fight for the majority. Eric leading a group claiming that they need to protect both the pregnant woman and child. A bearded man heading the other faction declaring one of them has to be killed. All kinds of deception occur with people switching teams to stay alive.
I will not vote – They identify a man who has never said anything from the start or voted ever. Sometimes, when you are offered only terrible options, the better decision is to not choose.
Eric tricks the bearded man into voting for the silent guy and teams with the woman and the kid to take him out. After that, they take out the silent guy.
Circle Movie Ending Explained
Eric’s Strategy in Circle
Eric, continuing to fake being the nice guy, asks the pregnant woman and the kid to choose who’ll live. The kid agrees to sacrifice herself. Eric instructs that he and the girl should step out at the same time, allowing the pregnant girl to be the last survivor. Just as the girl steps out Eric votes for the pregnant girl and he gets them both killed. Because the girl’s baby is still alive, Eric ties. He then kills the baby.
Circle Movie Ending Meaning
You’re probably wondering what the Circle movie ending means. As Eric heads out, he joins a bunch of people who appear to be survivors of other Circles. You can see here that there is a significant number of kids and pregnant women. This shows that in some Circles, the group stuck consistently to their morals, allowing a kid or a pregnant woman to survive. It’s the balance between the schemers, moralizers, and righteous that provides for the game of the Circle to exist. Imagine how eventless it would be with robots or advanced beings that would make their decisions at a species level. I’m sure the aliens plan to take the survivors and put them in Circles again, that is when the real game would begin.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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