Synopsis: A high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly binds together two ex-lovers on the defense team – testing the limits of their loyalties and placing their lives in jeopardy.
Stars: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Denis Moschitto, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent
Director: John Crowley
Running Length: 92 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: I think we’ve been long overdue for a paranoid thriller with conspiracies at every corner and the threat of mortal danger with each new secret discovered so I was looking forward to the twisty feast that Closed Circuit purported to offer. Sadly, though the appetizer of the film was filling if lacking spice the main course was a flavorless Jell-O mold of stale red-herrings.
A bombing in a populous square in London leaves many dead and is described as the worst terrorist attack on record. A suspect is arrested and, due to issues of national security, given two lawyers for his defense. One will try the case in open court while the other is appointed as a Special Advocate, privy to private, classified information that the other lawyer can’t hear and will present in a closed session. It’s a strange situation and unlike any we’ve seen in most courtroom thrillers so the set-up is appealing…at the start.
Taking elements from any number of government conspiracy thrillers from the 70’s and 80’s, the film starts out sharp with a nicely tense opening sequence of the closed circuit cameras that pick up the moments leading up to the bombing. When the original lawyer assigned to the case takes his own life (a scenario no one seems to bat an eye at in a case we’re constantly reminded is the most important in British history), the job goes to Martin Rose (Eric Bana, Star Trek, Lone Survivor) who soon finds out that the Special Advocate assigned to the case is his former mistress Claudia (Rebecca Hall, Iron Man 3, The Awakening).
Now their past relationship should mean that one of them has to recuse themselves but, no, where would that leave us? The law states that the two are to have no contact so the audience is left to wonder two things. The first is why Martin and Claudia ever got together in the first place. There’s an obvious lack of chemistry between the actors and it’s tough to pinpoint who is more at fault, Bana’s cocky puffshirt of an attorney or Hall’s chilly take on her character. The second thing is how long it will be before Martin and Claudia break the rules and start talking about the case with each other.
As the movie follows Martin and Claudia conducting their own investigations into the bombing, a whole slew of extra characters are introduced and nearly all are written in solely to give information that moves the plot along. Julia Stiles’ (Silver Linings Playbook, Girl Most Likely) miniscule role is given such short shrift that her exit from the film might very well be missed if you look away. Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas), Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), and Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black, John Carter) get their jobs done efficiently, even if they are merely obviously placed roadblocks to Martin and Claudia getting at the truth of it all.
If the film is worth seeing it’s for a scene that I can’t even talk about because it would give the one interesting twist the movie has up its sleeve. I’ll just say that it involves Hall’s character cross-examining a witness that audiences won’t see coming (well, if you’ve seen the trailer you may…so take my advice and don’t watch it). That this scene crackles is thanks to the actor playing opposite Hall and it gives way nicely to several more scenery chewing moments.
Unfortunately, this scene a little over halfway through the movie can’t snap the film back onto the promising track it started off on. It winds up blowing totally off course as it struggles to find an ending that is suitable and winds up settling for a denouement that’s not very exciting or satisfying. Arriving at the tail end of the summer movie season, Closed Circuit seems out of place for this time of year and with so many other strong films arriving in the last few weeks, this isn’t one I’d make a serious effort to see. A fine rental for a rainy day but not worth the trip to the theater.