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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Closed Circuit
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by Jay Seaver

"An interesting idea swallowed by a familiar conspiracy."
3 stars

It says something about humanity, the world we live in, or perhaps just me personally, that I'm bored by the brand of paranoia that keeps "Closed Circuit" running. Is that in spite of how visible abuse of power has become, or because of it? I'm not sure. It creates a strange paradox, though: What should be dry legal procedure here here becomes a lot more intriguing than the life-and-limb stuff it leads to.

The court case that sets the action in motion is trial of Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), a Turkish immigrant who is accused of masterminding the explosion that killed dozens in a London outdoor market six months prior. His barrister has committed suicide, so a new attorney, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is starting from scratch very close to the trial. The wrinkle is that because some of the evidence is far too sensitive to put into the hands of a suspected terrorist or his representative, a special advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is assigned to review the material separately and argue for its inclusion in closed court. They are not allowed to have any contact, and thus conceal that they are former lovers. As they individually discover that something doesn't smell right, Martin is contacted by an American reporter (Julia Stiles), while Claudia is watched by a friendly spy (Riz Ahmed).

Writer Steven Knight asks an interesting question here: How does one conduct a fair trial in situations like this, where the demands of justice and security seem to oppose each other so directly? As dull as legal maneuvering might seem to the layman, this situation provides both a clearly-stated problem and a potentially unique way to structure the plot with two leads working separately that could serve as commentary on the situation - does dividing the labor in this way put the defendant at an inherent disadvantage? Could the prosecution be hoisted on their own petard because Claudia might supply Martin with evidence he wouldn't think to look for himself? There's material for a pretty great courtroom drama in this set-up.

Instead, though, things get conventional quick. The twist to the story isn't a bad one, really, but what it leads to has been done so many times that the surprise just isn't there any more. On top of that, the filmmakers seem to be going through the motions. There are the obligatory shots of closed circuit cameras and from their POV to remind the audience that London is perhaps the most heavily-surveiled city in the world and other shots that make it clear Martin and Claudia are being spied upon, but they are underplayed. There are moments when characters are revealed to be radical true believers, but they're not individual enough to make this person being a heavy individual. Things happen off-screen just because those sorts of things are part of the conspiracy thriller template.

There's a brief moment when the fact that Martin and Claudia used to be lovers seems interesting as opposed to thrown in because it might make something easier later on - a scene with Ciaran Hinds when it seems like they really despise each other and may find their way to righteousness out of ambition - but it fades, giving way to a pair of smart but rather undifferentiated lead performances. The characters are clearly capable and generally likable, but Martin liking to have a daily row on the Thames isn't exactly a personality. It's up to the likes of Hinds as an affably dry mediator or Ahmed playing the intelligence-service agent less condescendingly than usual to lubricate the movie. That's the sort of job that would often fall to Jim Broadbent, but he's instead having a grand time chewing scenery as the bullying Attorney General instead - and even if he's not the alpha villain, he's a malevolent presence the movie sorely needs.

Director John Crowley does keep things moving along smoothly, at least. As much as the premise is no longer exciting in concept, he and Knight never let the movie become dull in terms of things not happening and the audience becoming impatient waiting for the next shoe to drop. He gets details across without drowning the viewer in minutia, stages what action there is fairly well, and mixes in the point-of-view shots enough for it to feel important but keeps them from feeling like a gimmick. The opening sequence is a keen use of the multi-camera videobank to let the audience pick action out but also recognize the sifting necessary.

All that general competence makes "Closed Circuit" an hour and a half or so that doesn't feel like a waste of time, and the ideas it plays with aren't buried so deep that there's not an interesting conversation to be had afterward. It's just that we've all seen the conspiracy story that winds up front and center, and this version doesn't add much new to it

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originally posted: 09/11/13 11:10:55
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User Comments

12/29/17 Tom Eric Banavich is absolutely useless. Most overrated actor this century! 1 stars
12/07/13 Pearl Bogdan I felt like I was watching a remake the entire time I was watching it 3 stars
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  28-Aug-2013 (R)
  DVD: 07-Jan-2014

  01-Nov-2013 (15)

  DVD: 07-Jan-2014

Directed by
  John Crowley

Written by
  Steven Knight

  Rebecca Hall
  Eric Bana
  Jim Broadbent
  Ciarán Hinds
  Riz Ahmed
  Kenneth Cranham

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