'Closed Circuit': Not likely to have the feeling of being watched

Eric Bana (left, with Ciaran Hinds) portrays a lawyer brought in to investigate a terrorist act.
Eric Bana (left, with Ciaran Hinds) portrays a lawyer brought in to investigate a terrorist act.
Posted: August 29, 2013

"CLOSED Circuit" bills itself as the sort of old-school mystery that studios used to make, and that's true, but they used to make them about local crime.

This movie is about a massive terror attack in the U.K., and so the "old school" storytelling techniques seem a little goofy.

Such as the idea that you have two lawyers (Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall) and one reporter (Julia Stiles) investigating one of the most heinous crimes in the nation's history.

And perhaps a coverup. Martin (Bana) is called in to represent the surviving terrorist when the defendant's previous attorney falls off a roof.

A New York Times bureau reporter (Stiles) seems to be the only person in the U.K. who finds this suspicious. What about the rest of the dead lawyer's staff?

Well, he didn't have any. Martin walks into an empty office, decorated with the usual movie-thriller wallpaper of important-looking documents and photos be-scrawled with red marker. He has not even a secretary.

He does have a sinister boss (Jim Broadbent) who looks in from time to time to make sure that Martin's not really getting anywhere.

Everyone, it seems, is short staffed. Even the government agency assigned to kill anyone who interferes with a conviction can spare only two agents. There's an unintentionally funny scene of the two of them chasing down a target, heaving for breath, because the rest of MI6 is on furlough, or something.

So, we have the most obvious and yet least scrutinized conspiracy in the history of the U.K., and no one seems particularly alarmed that people are trying to kill Bana and his co-counsel, Claudia (Hall).

Their "Adams Rib"-ish legal relationship is the movie's most interesting facet - Martin serves as counsel in the public trial, Claudia is to represent the interests of the defendant in a private proceeding held to determine how much evidence will be made public.

This is actually a timely and interesting take in Age of Terror jurisprudence (or lack thereof), but it's also complex and hard to dramatize, so director John Crowley bails, and instead takes up the by-the-numbers trappings of the contemporary surveillance-state thriller.

And so we have a Bourne-ish collection of Big Brother footage, cut together to create a paranoid atmosphere, set to up-tempo jazz.

I will say this about the leads, however. No matter how you shoot them - cellphone, traffic cam, dash cam, or Panavision - Bana and Hall look smashing.


Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

Online: ph.ly/Movies

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