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Closed Circuit

2013 | 96 min | R | 2.39:1

Closed Circuit


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Theatrical release date

 28 August, 2013
 01 November, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Closed Circuit


Screenshots from Closed Circuit Blu-ray

Closed Circuit Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 29, 2013

“Closed Circuit” doesn’t know what type of film it wants to be, and it bears the marks of editorial indecision, where the original direction of the story was whittled down to make the picture more palatable to a wider audience. There are satisfactory elements contained within, with a gifted ensemble working intently to make their performances stand out in an increasingly absurd thriller. However, whatever promises of quality and taste are made in the first half of the feature are unfulfilled in the second half, where a mildly intriguing legal drama with some procedural heft is turned into a junky network television pilot, complete with logic leaps and uninspired chases.

When a terrorist bombing occurs in downtown London, the country calls for a swift display of justice. Identified in the terrorist cell planning stages is Farroukh (Denis Moschitto), a heroin addict with plenty of secrets to share, but refuses to cooperate with authorities. Assigned to the case is defense attorney Martin (Eric Bana), who’s recent divorce has left him in a state of solitude. His Special Advocate is Claudia (Rebecca Hall), a determined legal mind trying to persuade Martin to downplay their previous relationship so they’ll both have a shot at the case of the century. Ordered to remain separate during the evidence gathering process, Martin hopes to crack Farroukh, working to reveal his motivations and deduce his hesitations with the questioning process. Claudia is left with top secret documents and a chance to interview Farroukh’s defiant son, while growing increasingly aware of surveillance techniques studying her every move, including intimate attention from Nazrul (Riz Ahmed), a government employee with a special interest in the case.

“Closed Circuit” opens with images from surveillance cameras, watching everyday life go by at a busy marketplace, studying individual behaviors and conversations before a truck backs into the area and bombs are detonated. It’s a shocking event, and one that motivates the screenplay by Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”) early on, seizing attention as the hunt for suspects begins. However, “Closed Circuit” isn’t about cops slapping around potential villains and inspecting rising tension on the streets, quickly reducing its volatility to legal limitations, where Martin and Claudia accept the challenge of defense and proceed with their separate investigations. Actually, the procedural approach fits the movie quite nicely, as director John Crowley (“Intermission”) finds a routine but engrossing tempo of hidden agendas and paranoia to play with, as both lawyers feel pressure from unknown forces shadowing their daily movement. For Martin, the omnipresence of cabs at all hours is enough to trigger his suspicion that he’s being monitored, while Claudia’s apartment OCD finds books slightly out of order, also experiencing a case of the creeps with Nazrul, played with unnecessary seductive overtones by Ahmed, who always seems to be fingering a pair of silk panties in his front pocket when acting with Hall. It’s amazing Claudia doesn’t immediately request a change in security.

Actually, numerous questions arise when “Closed Circuit” sheds its legal gamesmanship to transform into a formulaic thriller, reducing beats of intrigue to introduce a violent string of attacks meant to keep Claudia and Martin in line as they inch closer to the truth behind Farroukh’s trembling demeanor. It’s not a natural change in tone, wedged into a film that’s better off with sparring professionals and tempestuous romantic history, attacking the evidence of the case with mental warfare instead wasting time increasing suspense through artificial means of antagonism. I also question the intention of any movie that works so diligently to summon an air of paranoia, yet presents supposedly brilliant characters who never close the blinds in their living rooms and work spaces. It’s not really a secret meeting when anyone with a camera can snap the whole thing through a neighboring apartment window.

“Closed Circuit” is satisfactorily performed by Bana and Hall, who express a proper tone of disbelief mixed with discomfort, while supporting players such as Kenneth Cranham, Ciaran Hinds, and Jim Broadbent (portraying a shady Attorney General) fill out their untrustworthy old men roles with chewiness. It’s a shame there’s not much of a story to help the ensemble out, as “Closed Circuit” eventually loses composure completely, blundering an attempt to transform into a thriller built around the protection of Farroukh’s child. Going from passably engaging to annoyingly familiar, the movie kneecaps itself midway, suddenly feeling the urge to increase pulse rates when its legal maneuverings are far more appealing.

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Eric Bana, Julia Stiles, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent
Director: John Crowley

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