Eric Bana as Martin Rose
Rebecca Hall as Claudia Simmons-Howe
Jim Broadbent as Attorney General
Ciarán Hinds as Devlin
Julia Stiles as Joanna Reece
Riz Ahmed as Nazrul Sharma
Denis Moschitto as Farroukh Erdogan
Pinar Ögün as Ilkay Erdogan
Hasancan Cifci as Emir Erdogan
Anne-Marie Duff as Melissa
James Lowe as Simon Fellowes
Kenneth Cranham as Cameron Fischer
Doug Allen as Ryan
Jemma Powell as Elizabeth
Isaac Hempstead Wright as Tom Rose
Neil D’Souza as Iqbal
Directed by John Crowley
An explosion set off in a busy London marketplace has killed 120 people and after the mysterious death of the main suspect’s defense attorney, his new defense attorney Martin Rose (Eric Bana) hires a special advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), to go through sensitive “closed” evidence that could jeopardize national security. Years earlier, the two of them had an affair that ruined his marriage, something that could hurt their case in defending their client if the truth came out, but more concerning is the government conspiracy they uncover and the number of people who wind up dead the more they learn.
On paper, this new British thriller (of sorts) has the type of filmmaking pedigree that couldn’t be more promising for a story set in the modern-day British legal system, between its screenplay by “Eastern Promises’” Steven Knight and being helmed by Irish filmmaker and theater director John Crowley (“Boy A”). Because of this, it’s somewhat a shame that “Closed Circuit” often has a hard time establishing exactly what kind of movie it wants to be.
From the opening scenes of closed circuit cameras on a crowded marketplace that explodes into chaos, you may think you know what to expect. After all, we’ve seen plenty of post-9/11 movies about terrorist bombings and the search for those responsible with “Zero Dark Thirty” being the most recent one. This search all happens off-camera as it immediately skips forward six months and becomes more about the prosecution and defense of the perpetrator, a Turkish young man suffering in jail. From their introduction, we’re aware of the lingering romance Eric Bana’s Martin Rose had with his new defense partner Claudia (Rebecca Hall), a relationship that automatically creates the type of “meet cute” opportunities normally seen in romantic comedies. For most of the film you’ll be expecting them to resume this relationship as well, which is not to say a movie where we think we already know everything is necessarily a bad thing, since when it does offer two major plot twists, they’re quite effective in piquing our interest, which tends to be waning due to the fairly dull choice in characters.
That aside, Rebecca Hall continues to be one of Britain’s finest dramatic actresses, giving another solid performance compared to Bana, whose terrible British accent is often hard to get past. Due to the nature of the case having a special advocate who can’t have contact with the defense attorney, Bana and Hall end up not having that many scenes together, which is a shame since Bana is definitely better when with Hall than apart. After establishing their relationship and previous affair, they’re each off on their own journeys to find evidence for their case, only being seen on screen together a few times.
Surrounding them are a group of questionably shady characters in the form of Jim Broadbent, Ciaran Hinds and “Four Lions” star Riz Ahmed whose shades of grey roles makes you unsure if their intentions are in line with what the defense is trying to achieve or not. There’s also a “blink and you’ll miss her” appearance by Julia Stiles as a New York Times reporter who serves very little purpose to the overall story.
This is another quiet film from Crowley, one that moves at a fairly even albeit slow pace up until the two plot twists mentioned above. These points certainly make the case more interesting, but for a movie being sold as a thriller, it takes most of the movie before we really feel any of the paranoia or tension necessary to be effective with only a few passing moments when you feel either lawyer is truly in danger. In fact, much of the film you’ll probably spend expecting all of the truths to be revealed in court, so when these scenes pass fairly uneventfully and we’re back with the lawyers trying to uncover a conspiracy that puts their lives in danger, one wonders whether telling the story from a lawyer’s perspective really showed much purpose.
The title of the movie is also a bit of a misnomer since London’s vast CCTV network is used as a visual device every once in a while but has absolutely no relevance to the case or the story, so whenever Crowley decides to show something happening via those cameras, you hope it will have more significance than it even actually does.
The Bottom Line:
“Closed Circuit” is an oddly lopsided two-handed character drama that one would expect to be more timely than it actually is. It motors along at such a slow pace it hardly earns its moniker of “thriller,” often keeping any real tension at an aggravating minimum.