Closed Circuit (2013) / Thriller-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language and brief violence
Running time:
96 min.

Cast: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciaran Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent, Dennis Moschito, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Pinar Ogun
Director: John Crowley
Screenplay: Steven Knight
Review published September 1, 2013

Closed Circuit is a British political thriller and courtroom drama that should meet well with those who enjoy such fare.  The film starts with video surveillance public cameras filming a rather ordinary day at a busy market in London, at least until a truck full of explosives drives in and detonates, taking with it over 100 innocent people.  With the suicide bombers gone, the authorities pin the blame on a Turkish man named Farroukh Erdogan (Moschitto, Chiko), claiming he is the mastermind of the terrorist cell responsible.  Erdogan is appointed two lawyers in his defense: Martin Rose (Bana, Hanna), a barrister heading up the public trial, and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall, Iron Man 3), a special advocate who, due to the nature of the case, which involves matters of national security, will be dealing with the top secret evidence of the case in closed session. 

Due to the nature of the information given in the closed session, Claudia and Martin are forbidden to speak to one another as the case goes on, though matters are a bit complicated, as the two were involved in an extramarital affair with one another that ended badly.  However, Martin soon begins to suspect that all's not well with the case, and uncovers some information of his own that could not only jeopardize the case, but also Claudia's life if she were to reveal it, as a prior barrister on the case died under mysterious circumstances.  Ban on communication or not, Martin feels he must fess up, though that will greatly depend on whether those who are trying to keep a lid on things get to him first.

The film features a lively cast, with solid performances by the leads, who downplay their roles in a way that lets us appreciate the situations they're in without resorting to oversell.  The story, which could easily have been too convoluted to follow for someone who doesn't understand British laws and government agencies, is relatively easy to follow, and features a nicely developed script by acclaimed screenwriter Steven Knight (Redemption, Dirty Pretty Things) , though some all-too-convenient narrative shortcuts are taken to keep the story moving briskly, which may annoy some who prefer courtroom dramas without all of the contrived thriller elements.  Director John Crowley (Boy A, Intermission) does a very fine job with a good troupe of thespians, and while the film lacks a huge budget for large-scale action scenes, the more grounded developments definitely work in its favor in keeping a tenuous believability in what is mostly a story built on creative fantasy.  Some may find the seemingly tacked-on ending counterintuitive to the more effectively bleak elements of the rest of the story.

While Closed Circuit will find a receptive audience in those who like John Grisham novels and the like, it isn't really a must-see in the genre, merely one that is well made, finely acted, with moments of political commentary underneath regarding whether or not there is truth and justice in the court system if the government is involved.  If you like paranoid thrillers filled with backroom dealings and hidden agendas that make you question how much information is out there that is too dangerous for the general public to know, Closed Circuit could have you looking at major events with a slightly more cynical point of view than you might have had going in. 

 Qwipster's rating:

2013 Vince Leo