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MOVIES: Closed Circuit – A bland quasi-thriller despite its best intentions – Review

While nearly every person who loves movies has been demanding that more original scripts be produced – inundated as we have been with remakes, sequels and adaptations – it would be nice if the few original scripts that did manage to be green lighted were actually worth a trip to the theater. Closed Circuit, which, to its credit, at least attempts to mimic the intelligence of films like Michael Clayton and the Bourne trilogy, feels less like the political thriller it proposes to be and more like the cinematic equivalent of a student who simply cuts and pastes entries from Wikipedia and submits them as his own.

Set within the world of the U.K. legal system, which is startlingly different from the judicial system in the United States, Closed Circuit addresses issues that are extremely pertinent today, namely distrust of the government and the corruption of power. A man named Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto) is arrested and accused of masterminding a terrorist bombing which took place in the middle of a London market, killing dozens of people. Erdogan has ties with the two men who set off the bomb, but they are tenuous at best. Nevertheless, Erdogan is thrown in jail, the full blame of the attack on his shoulders.

Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is a Special Advocate appointed for Erdogan’s defense since, as it turns out, very sensitive government security information may be related to his case. The Special Advocate is there to plead for her client that all material revealed in a “closed session” be allowed in the general “open session” as well (this is the biggest difference between the U.K. and U.S. legal systems). Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is the barrister appointed by the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) as Erdogan’s general defense council after the previous barrister commits suicide. Claudia and Martin are not allowed to have any contact with one another once the closed material is provided to Claudia. However, their past relationship as lovers throws a wrench in that expectation and ends up putting them in a very dangerous situation.

Screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises) is tackling a very complex and controversial aspect of the British government and he deserves credit for bringing to light a timely issue which bespeaks the current state of national affairs. While Knight’s passion is laudable, the execution of his story is severely lacking in forethought. The characters in the film act in exactly the opposite manner of how real people would react if they found themselves in a similar situation. Why would Claudia or Martin take on a case if they know that their past could result in professional ruin? Both attorneys are successful and respected meaning they are supposedly intelligent as well. However, their behavior paints them as immature and impulsive with no thought at all for repercussions of their actions.

Worse, the plot is in no way affected by the Big Brother-like ubiquity of security cameras which both the title and all marketing materials claim is integral to the story. The bombing in the marketplace is caught on at least a dozen closed circuit cameras, yes, but that neither motivates nor accelerates the story. Movies like Enemy of the State or Vantage Point are much more effective at demonstrating how constant surveillance of citizens cannot be either harmful or helpful – and occasionally both at the same time. Closed Circuit, though, wastes its own premise making the ubiquitous cameras seen over and over again completely superfluous.

The film maintains a steady pace appropriate for the story thanks to director John Crowley. Keeping the action moving while not skipping over any of the key plot points is a tough balancing act and Crowley performs his task with aplomb. Already a respected name for smaller fare (Boy A, Intermission), Closed Circuit could signal bigger projects for Crowley which he will undoubtedly handle very well.

The only bright spot of the film – and it is blindingly bright – is the great character actor Jim Broadbent as the delightfully manipulative bureaucrat who seems to be pulling all the strings. The Attorney General (no name, just a title) can at one moment seem like an excellent guest to have over for tea and the next be unsettlingly threatening. Broadbent is absolutely terrific and deserves to be recognized at the years’ end awards season.

Closed Circuit shows a desire to be original and has great hope in itself, but ultimately it is a forgettable thriller that never has the impact it so craves.

Grade: C


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