The British political thriller Closed Circuit satisfies our need for intelligent Summer fare.
Intelligent human dramas are not usually in Hollywood's Summer toolbox. Explosions, gun battles, and sequels usually dominate the menu, with only a few rising to the top (Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Great Gatsby). The same goes for suspenseful political thrillers that don't rely on slow-motion gunplay or explosions to sell the sizzle. Closed Circuit not only doesn't need to rely on these devices, it's an intelligent and well-acted film that offers a refreshing alternative and an all too-relevant message about the post-9/11 world we live in.
Set in London, the film opens with a terrorist explosion at a crowded marketplace, killing 120 people, all of whom are featured on a menagerie of CCTV cameras. Their murders coincide with an anonymous tip of the mastermind's location, leading to his arrest. As he awaits what will be a high-profile trial, the British government takes extreme measures to close part of the proceedings to the public, based on the release of super-secret classified evidence. The defendant is assigned two lawyers, one for the public trial (Eric Bana), and the other for the closed portion (Rebecca Hall). But Martin and Claudia have a personal history that destroyed his marriage, a fact which the government of course is fully aware. When they assign the case after its first attorney commits suicide, it's all part of what becomes a complex and devious plan. Soon, books on shelves at Claudia's home are out of place and shadowy figures begin to trail the duo as they unravel a deepening conspiracy that goes almost to the top of the government. Legally prohibited from collaborating but realizing he needs Claudia to expose the real story, Martin realizes that he cannot trust anyone else, including his fellow investigator Devlin (Ciaran Hinds) or the even the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) who assigned them the case.
Although sexual tension in a film like this could have unraveled everything, Bana and Hall's understated performances lend a realistic tone to things. They don't realize the web of lies, murder, and conspiracy they've entered until it's too late; and much like people when faced with extreme choices, they make the only one they can to preserve their lives. Director John Crowley paints a world filled with grays and washed out colors, instantly informing the audience of its somewhat desolate tone. By doing so, he projects a level of realism in which his actors instantly feel at home, from our leads to the supporting folks like Broadbent and Hinds, a personal favorite of mine.
Credit Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy producers Tim Bevan and Liza Chasin for this little gem, although Writer Stephen Knight does miss a bit of needed backstory. Why Bana and Hall are handling this case without a staff is never fully addressed, leaving us to wonder if we need a refresher course in British barrister history before entering the theater. But that's the joy of Closed Circuit, for its smart and instantly enveloping storyline encourages the viewer to learn more about the events it's portraying while making us keenly aware and even paranoid about a post-9/11 world where street cameras and invasions of privacy have become part of our daily routine. And yet, these are only part of its larger cautionary tale, demonstrating that governments will sometimes go to great measures in order to 'protect lives' while covering up their misdeeds in the process.
If you believe our world is heading towards that depicted in Person of Interest, then you'll like the tension and thought-provoking message which Closed Circuit infuses. It's a welcomed relief from the Summer movie season, and hopefully an indicator of the quality that lies ahead as we move into Fall. Closed Circuit is rated R for violence and language and has a runtime of 96 minutes.
Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.
Please Leave A Comment-