By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Closed Circuit (Focus Features)
Rated R for language and brief violence.
Starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent,Riz Ahmed, Kenneth Cranham, Barbora Bobulová Jemma Powell, Doug Allen, Anne-Marie Duff.
Written by Steven Knight.
Directed by John Crowley.
I like spy-thrillers and court dramas, but I'm not as fond of movies that lack thrills or drama. Closed Circuit is a movie that stradles the line between the two film types, and perhaps suffers for trying a little too hard to serve two masters.
Eric Bana plays Martin Rose, a British barrister (lawyer) assigned to defend a Turkish man accused of masterminding the bombing of a London market. It's a little confusing to describe the British legal system, but another attorney named Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is also assigned to represent the suspect, but is not allowed to confer with Martin. All of the court proceedings are to take place in secret, to protect "national security." Incidentally, Martin and Claudia had an intense affair years earlier, leading to Martin's messy divorce, which adds to the drama.
As Martin and Claudia dig deeper into the case, they soon discover that their suspect may not have been responsible for the bombing, and that MI5 (British secret service) might have something to do with it. Martin realizes that he's under constant surveillance and that the lives of both Claudia and himself are in danger. The death of an American journalist covering the case (Julia Stiles) confirms their suspicions. They break the rules and make contact with the suspect's son, who may hold hidden information about the bombing, and might also implicate the government.
As the secret court hearing nears, Martin and Claudia must evade their MI5 agents to stay alive.
Closed Circuit has a few things going for it. One is Bana, who again proves he can handle complex dramatic roles quite favorably, as he did in Munich and other films. Another is Rebecca Hall, who is fast becoming one my favorite actors with an impressive resume (Iron Man 3, Everything Must Go, The Town, Frost/Nixon). Jim Broadbent also does a fine job as the UK attorney general with a subtle manner of being creepy. There is also a fair amount of tension in Closed Circuit, especially when the movie lives up to its name, i.e. the idea of being under constant surveillance (referring to the UK's oft-maligned “everywhere” security cameras, which are an effective means of setting up the pivotal bombing during the film's first scene).
The problem with Closed Circuit is the payoff, which is lacking, to say the least. I don't want to spoil too much, but letting the bad guys win is not a very enjoyable film experience. All that great acting, tension and clever plot seem wasted on spy-thriller that is less than thrilling, and a courtroom drama without a dramatic ending.