Closed Circuit (2013): John Crowley’s Thriller, Starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall

Closed Circuit is a slow-burn thriller, which aims at tackling timely issues, but is too superficial to accomplish its goals.

It’s probably a coincidence that “Closed Circuit” opens when issues of national security, individual rights, and the “Patriot Act” are on the national agenda, due to the sentencing last week of Bradley Manning and the still-unresolved case of Edward Snowden, who has opened a can of worms for the current American administration.

Focus Features, which releases the picture, may benefit from the aforementioned political context, which lends “Closed Circuit” a poignant relevancy that, having watched the film, it does not deserve.

Every element about this mid-range budgeted movie is mediocre or second-tier: the writing, the acting, and especially the direction. For a movie whose running time is only 92 minutes, it sure is a static enterprise, lacking genuine suspense, considering its potentially explosive subject.

The format chosen for “Closed Circuit” is that of an old-fashioned courtroom melodrama, and you can tell the writer and director do not trust their material for they add to the already familiar tale of two defense lawyers on the opposite side of the fence the notion that they have been lovers, which instead of contributing to the level of intrigue and suspense calls attention to shallow and routine nature of the narrative.

Eric Bana is Martin Rose, an English barrister defending the lone surviving suspect in a mass murder terror bombing, but he is not the only lawyer on the case. Rebecca Hall plays Claudia Simmons-Howe, a “special advocate,” the attorney in charge of the suspect’s case in the trial. Under the prescribed circumstances, the couple cannot meet or discuss the case. Since the first attorney on the case killed himself, soon, both Claudia and Martin begin to suspect that they are under surveillance and that there is upper-level conspiracy.

While Martin examines suspicious cab drivers and other men, Claudia interviews the suspect’s family and worries over a spy (Riz Ahmed), charged with delivering evidence to her. Needless to say, neither party tells the other what they have seen, done, or found out.

John Crowley, who had directed the far superior Irish picture “Intermission,” must have realized the problems of the story for he relies on technical devices, such as split screen, to jazz up the material and make it look cool and feel relevant.

Occasionally, there are some nice touches, such as the many surveillance images which precede the terror attack.

“Closed Circuit” benefits from its accomplished secondary cast. Jim Broadbent plays the attorney general who strangely enough charges them with taking this highly public trial. Ciaran Hinds is a cast as a solicitor who gets them access to evidence, while listening in on their meetings with the client (Denis Moschitto).

Scribe Knight dispenses information in a perfunctory way that prevents involvement on any level with the text or its characters.

For all the devices that accentuate the U.K. (standing in for the U.S.?) as a surveillance state, Crowley’s direction is at best functional, but largely undistinguished.

Making things worse is the lack of chemistry between the two leads, Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, who have done much better work in former movies.

Credits:

Focus Features release.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 92 Minutes