Closed Circuit

August, 2013, Thriller


The western world’s current passion for stories of political intrigue surely lies behind this British production which suggests that the intelligence agencies of the western liberal democracies aren’t above a bit of brutal suppression – at least when it’s in the interests of preserving a serving government’s  status quo. Screenwriter Steven Knight’s (Eastern Promises, Dirty, Pretty Things) storyline is as long on paranoia as it short on consistency, making this a low-rent espionage thriller more suitable for the telly rather than the big screen.

 Arrogant barrister Martin Rose (Eric Bana) has been handed a headline grabbing opportunity by England’s attorney general (Jim Broadbent); the defense of an Arab immigrant to Great Britian accused of complicity in a terrorist attack that killed dozens of people in a crowded London street. Because of the peculiarities of British law however, he’s only to handle those aspects of the defendant’s case which do not involve “matters of national security” – those will be overseen by Rose’s former lover Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) who will defend the accused in a closed court before a judge. Neither attorney is to be in touch with the other during the trial – even the defendant and Rose won’t know what the government holds against them unless the judge rules it essential to a full defense.

 These jurisprudential subtleties may be crucial to the plot, but they weigh it down with unnecessary complexity; like a short pitch after a long windup, the action which follows the exposition of the government’s case involves the accused’s teenage son, various attempts on the lives of both defense counsel along with various & nefarious goings on between the attorney general and Devlin (Diarån Hinds) the attorney in charge of assigning members of the bar to those unable to pay for their own defense.

 As improbabilities pile haphazardly upon each other, the defense team outwits the combined forces of British intelligence only to learn the defendant will be dealt with in the only manner which could be expected in these preposterous circumstances.

Journeymen Broadbent and Hinds are typically perfect in their supporting roles, but this is a film that stands or falls on its leads and both are sadly lacking in the kind of chemistry which could propel audiences past the holes in the storyline towards any satisfactory finish. Bana is a curious choice for the role of Rose; he’s an actor who seems to oscillate between supporting roles in big budget films (Star Trek, Munich, Hulk) and low-budget output destined for the DVD market (Deadfall, The Other Boleyn Girl). He begins here as an acidic but perfectly acceptable contemporary hero, but quickly descends into bathos as a man trying to do the right thing without really having any idea what that might be. Ms. Hall on the other hand has had the good fortune to appear in relatively small roles in highly regarded movies (Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Town, Iron Man 3)  yet she provides little more here than an acceptable interpretation of a damsel in distress.

 Director John Crowley’s work behind the camera is competent, but barely so; only the split-screen opening credits, (which cunningly display the terrorist act itself) are worth of mention.

 The Verdict? Not 3 stars, but rather “3P’s” – pedestrian, pedestrian, pedestrian.

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