Capone says the surveillance thriller CLOSED CIRCUIT is a little too closed off from the real world!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
This is one of those films about a big, important subject that feels small and insulated from the real world when it should do everything in its power to be as relevant to current events as possible. The British production CLOSED CIRCUIT is about a pair of attorney representing a suspected terrorist ringleader whose sleeper cell perpetrated a suicide bombing at a crowded London market, killing 120 people. But what it's actually about is surveillance, and how impossible it is to do or say anything without some device or bit of technology recording it. The movie Paranoia didn't have nearly as much paranoia as this film does.
But screenwriter Steven Knight (EASTERN PROMISES, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS) and director John Crowley (KID A, INTERMISSION) get as easily distracted from the most dramatic elements of their story as a kitten chasing a pen light on the wall. By making the two lawyers--Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall)--former lovers whose affair wrecked Rose's marriage, this immediately distracts from the fascinating procedural elements of the case that are actually that are quite different than the American way of doing things (and I'm not even talking about the wigs).
The most significant portions of the case have to do with the evidence. The reason suspected terrorist Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto) has two lawyers is that some of the evidence must remain confidential, even from the suspect and his primary attorney, Rose. Simmons-Howe is the only person allowed to review the classified evidence to defend him, so in a sense, the suspect is forced to go through two trials, one that includes the secret evidence and one that does not. The trouble is, neither attorney believes their client is guilty. In fact, they both come to the same conclusion: that their client is working undercover for MI5, and even though the two attorneys are never supposed to talk to each other while the trial is going on, they begin to dig into Erdogan's history within British intelligence.
Not surprisingly, as they uncover more and more of the truth, their lives become increasingly at risk, and they start being victims of the very surveillance that helped catch their client in the first place. Anne-Marie Duff is actually quite good as an MI5 agent assigned to keep tabs on Rose, while Jim Broadbent pops in and out of the story as the Attorney General, who slinks in whenever Rose needs a reminder of the stakes or that anyone of his friends and loved ones (including his young son) can fall victim to accidents if he gets too out of line or close to the truth. As long as we're trotting out famous faces, the filmmakers also throw in Ciarán Hines as Devlin, one of Rose's oldest friends.
One of the weirdest supporting roles in CLOSED CIRCUIT is that of Julia Stiles a New York Times reporter who pops up in two scenes, offers up no vital information, and is "dealt with" via a newspaper headline. Her appearance in this film could have been easy extracted, and it truly feels like the only reason she's in the film is to entice American viewers to maybe take a look at this film. But if having great actors like Bana and Hall in you movie isn't bringing in the yanks, I'm not sure Stiles is going to make it happen.
The more CLOSED CIRCUIT leans on its brooding love story and angst of its lead characters as it pertains to their personal relationship, the less interesting it becomes. When the film sticks to its more foreboding themes of government cover ups and intelligence agencies going after citizens of its own country, then it's certainly better. Even still, the movie feels like it's taking place in a very small box, with only room for a few characters to drift in and out of each others' lives. This is the kind of film that would benefit the more like the real world it resembles, and sometimes it gets close, but not enough.
There are a couple of shocking reveals in the film, and presumably these are the type of revelations with national and even international implications, but it only feels like three or four people give a shit. There's also a horrible, tacked-on bit of audio over the last bit of film that attempts to wrap up everything we've seen in the tackiest wrapping paper ever designed. It's a closer call than I'm making it sound, but the flaws are great and the saving graces are too few.
-- Steve Prokopy
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