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Unoriginal Closed Circuit a Decent Alternative

  • Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2013 8 Aug
  • COMMENTS
Unoriginal <i>Closed Circuit</i> a Decent Alternative

DVD Release Date: January 7, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: August 28, 2013
Rating: Rated R for language and brief violence
Genre: Crime | Drama | Mystery
Run Time: 96 minutes
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent, Ciarán Hinds

Closed Circuit opens with a bang—literally. As we watch via security cameras, a suicide bomber commits an act of terrorism in central London, resulting in chaos, carnage, and mass casualties. But that's not really the point of the movie; the issue is what comes afterwards. After the suspect is apprehended it's time for "the trial of the century" to begin. Justice is about to prevail. Or is it?

After his colleague's unfortunate demise, barrister Martin Rose (Eric Bana, Star Trek) is called upon to take up the case for the defense. He's okay with that, but not with another counselor on the case. It's not her skills that concern him; Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall, Please Give) is a perfectly competent professional. It's their shared history that might get in the way and not just because of any leftover feelings.

This is where things are apt to get fuzzy for U.S. audiences as some of the vagaries of the British judicial system may leave American viewers scratching their heads (or that could just be a knee-jerk reaction to the powdered wigs barristers wear in court). What it boils down to is the defendant has two defense attorneys: One (Martin) is his counsel in the public trial; the other (Claudia) is his counsel in "secret proceedings" where evidence is presented in private. And by private, they mean not even the defendant gets to see the evidence against him. The two counsels are not permitted to have any personal relationship (this is where their past is a problem), no contact, and are absolutely forbidden to collaborate.

You see where this is going?

There's nothing to make the audience gasp and exclaim "didn’t see that coming!" Closed Circuit is intelligent, but not quite smart enough to actually surprise anyone. It has one of those "ripped from the headlines" plots, but we've already seen this story in multiple variations. The banter is frequently clever, and delivered with charm, but those moments don't come often enough. It's appealing but nothing really stands out. It’s more Masterpiece Theater than major studio release (and many Masterpiece offerings would kick Closed Circuit's black-robed behind).

To be fair, while none of the revelations are earth-shattering—not, at least, to the average audience member—a generous person might say their inevitability works in the film's favor, a sort of subconscious foreshadowing. More cynical types will always be at least two steps ahead of the plot and leave for multiple popcorn runs in the sure knowledge that nothing unexpected will happen while they're in line at the concession stand. But don’t do that, because you might miss seeing the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) communicate volumes while actual saying almost nothing. Or Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black) deliver a throwaway line with impeccable timing. Or Julia Stiles (Silver Linings Playbook)... actually, you could miss her brief performance. She only shows up to throw out a couple of dark hints; it hardly seems worth her while.

The plot may be old hat, but there’s plenty to look at in Closed Circuit, where a significant amount of the action is seen from the point of view of the surveillance cameras that give the film its name. The editing helps that conceit with sharp, rapid cuts from one storyline to another almost as if we're watching multiple stories play out at the same time. Bana said the film speaks to "...how much we're watched and how much information is being controlled, and to the reduced lack of privacy in society in general." This is especially true in London, one of the most monitored cities in the world. It's also one of the most iconic; the shiny beauty of the modern city contrasts nicely with the murky story of terrorism and corruption. It may not offer anything new, but at least Closed Circuit is a thinking person's alternative to fluff.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: One character admits to a heroin addiction; a man admits to being a drug dealer. Some social drinking (beer and wine); a man is answers the question “are you drunk” with “not yet.” Brief smoking of cigarettes and cigars.
  • Language/Profanity: The f-word makes several appearances, more often as an adjective than an exclamation. Basta** and pr**k also heard.
  • Sex/Nudity: Married couple is shown in bed (sleeping) before he is dragged out wearing only pajama bottoms. There are multiple references to an extra-marital affair between two characters with a brief flashback to their time together, but nothing explicit beyond kissing. Reference made to “the queer guy.” Woman removes her blouse but is wearing a camisole underneath.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense:  There’s not a lot of violence, but it does tend to be of the “made you jump” variety when it does appear. A car crash. Both a man and a woman are attacked; she fights off a man attempting to strangle her with a garrote, he hits a man over the head with a pipe. A man is murdered; we briefly see his body from a distance.
  • Spiritual Themes: At a funeral for a suicide victim the vicar uses it to remind the mourners that “everyone needs God.” There’s a conversation-worthy subtext to the plot about what constitutes justice and how far an individual can or should go to see that justice is done.

Publication date: August 28, 2013