The cult-y keynote may soon surpass both the iPod and the self-serious turtleneck as the most lasting contribution Steve Jobs made to the Western zeitgeist.
This makes sense, of course. The opportunity to layer flashy futurism over ominous subtext makes such monologues a writer’s playground, especially in an age of increasing paranoia at the intersection of technologic and business interests. And few people better embody that paranoia than Jobs, a man who’s well-documented dark side the public willfully ignored, so long as he reliably pumped out innovations in digital aesthetics.
So when Tom Hanks takes the stage in the trailer for James Ponsoldt’s The Circle, clad in a dark quarter-zip from L.L. Bean’s Ruthless Genius collection, championing “the perfectibility of human beings,” we know immediately who and what he’s standing in for. The majority of the trailer for The Circle is built around Hanks’ address to the gathered employees of the eponymous tech firm. Based on the trailer, The Circle is an amalgam of Bay Area giants, complete with a luxuriously post-modern campus, a hyper-cool corporate culture and an active disdain for personal privacy.
Ponsoldt has been an indie institution for over a decade now, a Sundance mainstay since his feature debut Off the Black premiered at the festival in 2006. He would return to Park City in 2012 with Smashed, in 2013 with The Spectacular Now, and most recently in 2015 with The End of the Tour. Ponsoldt is directing from his own adaption of Dave Eggers’ novel of the same name. Hanks starred in another Eggers adaption, A Hologram for the King, earlier this year.
In the event that viewers somehow overlook the inherent creepiness of assertions like “knowing is good; knowing everything is better,” juxtaposed through delivery in Hanks’ unfailingly friendly baritone, the trailer provides a number of fail-safe measures to ensure that audiences pick up on the fact that something fishy might be up with The Circle. There’s a cultish call and response, a drone-induced car accident and a teary-eyed Karen Gillan in a padded cell. Emma Watson helpfully tilts her head and narrows her eyes in naive consternation throughout. And, in case viewers are too busy to look up from their phones while the trailer is playing, an achingly eerie cover of Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes” repeatedly warns that “they’re watching you.” MM