Closed Circuit

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Closed Circuit
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

A truck bomb devastates the Borough marketplace in London, killing 120 people and injuring many more. One man, Farrouhk Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), is arrested for the heinous crime and appears to be the mastermind that put the bombing into play. The government, eager for a quick prosecution, must provide secret evidence to gain the conviction for the bombing that was caught on “Closed Circuit.”

Robin:
This is a sometimes taut but uneven thriller geared for the reality of the new millennium. When Erdogan is caught and charged with the Borough Bombing all is set for the trial of the century. But, the government’s case against the alleged terrorist hinges on exposing information that could be a threat to national security. As the trial enters its sixth month, the barrister for the defense tragically dies and the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) appoints a new counselor, Martin Rose (Eric Bana), to the case. But, because of the secret nature of the state’s evidence, Martin is not allowed to examine that secret evidence.

Chief advocate for the defendant, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), does have clearance to read the secret documents. Right away, though, it is obvious that Martin and Claudia have a past and he does not want her on the case. He is overridden by the Attorney General and the two must cooperate with each other if they are to defend their client.

Martin learns there is more to the case when New York Times journalist, Joanna Reese (Julia Stiles), has a clandestine meeting with him. The reporter convinces Martin that his client is, in fact, working for MI5, British intelligence. From here, the drama dovetails in several directions with varying degrees of interest.

Unfortunately, the scattershot story goes down too many warrens to be satisfying. The stars of the film are a weak point, too, as their characters are overshadowed by the presumed cleverness of the screenplay by Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things,” “Eastern Promises”). The plethora of supporting characters and story lines waters down the drama as we have to follow the fragmented threads of the film’s tapestry. The run time, at 95 minutes, is far too short for all the information we have to ingest. Director John Crowley is juggling too many characters and stories to keep all the balls in the air.

Technically, “Closed Circuit” is nicely shot by cinematographer Adriano Goldman, using a coolly hued color palate that enhances the dramatic mood. The London locale, with its cold rains, also suits the film’s temperament. The multiple screens of the surveillance camera around the city harkens back to the use of split screen back in the 60s and 70s. Editing is choppy, again, due to much information in to little time.  I give it a C+.

Laura:
One beautiful day at an open air London market, a truck backs in where it shouldn't be.  Seconds later 120 are dead.  A tipster guides police to Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), the only surviving member of the suspected responsible terrorist cell.  As the prosecutor's case involves classified information, Special Advocat Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall, "The Town"), who cannot discuss the case with anyone once she's reviewed the documents is assigned.  Then the defending attorney commits suicide and Claudia's ex-lover Martin Rose (Eric Bana, "Munich," "Hanna") is called in to replace him.  Against his better judgement, Martin doesn't reveal their personal history but the more he digs into the case, the more it looks like they are being played in "Closed Circuit."

This British political thriller makes a strong statement about personal freedoms in the post 9/11 age, but as written by Steven Knight ("Eastern Promises") and directed by John Crowley ("Intermission," "Boy A"), the twists are all too discernible, characters not fully realized and the ending apparently truncated.  Still, for those American audience members who never use a passport, the British court system and a London of glass and steel may prove enough of an exotic backdrop to make this standard issue thriller stand out from Hollywood's late summer dumping ground.

Erdogan insists on his innocence, but Rose suspects something more complicated than that and when he finds evidence that when the man was once picked up before, he gave a different name, one of a man who pulled off a bombing at a USAF base in Germany.  Rose makes a wily assumption but everyone around him is practically pointing at their own complicity.  It's a cliche that the 'one man he can trust' will be anything but and it shouldn't take American journalist Joanna Reece (Julia Stiles, "Silver Linings Playbook") to point out that his predecessor's suicide may not have been one (unfortunately Stiles only reason for existence here).  Functionaries in blond wigs (Anne-Marie Duff, "Nowhere Boy") at dinner parties who doth protest too much about their political significance should also raise alarms. At least Martin notices that the same cab always arrives to pick him up - until he reports his suspicions.  Meanwhile Claudia's got a home office guy, Nazrul Sharma (Riz Ahmed, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," who gets off one good line reading), who's able to enter her locked office in her absence and who raises other warning flags with generally threatening behavior while the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent, "The Iron Lady," "Cloud Atlas") pops up occasionally to remind them how the world works.

Crowley's let the title dictate his visual style, using closed circuit cameras frequently to depict action (Great Britain has more of these than any country on earth), especially in the opening scene where the screen keeps dividing, challenging us to find what we know will be coming. There's very little of Old Britain here, despite bewigged judges and attorneys - even the marketplace, although Victorian in style, is glass and metal, as are most of the modern offices and apartments on display.  The innards of a huge football arena are almost antiseptic in appearance.  If only the narrative were as sleek as the production design.

"Closed Circuit" ends in a muddle, the two lovers having witnessed corruption up close and personal and inevitable, only to be seen together, news broadcast voice overs implying they've somehow blown the lid off a coverup.  Maybe with cloak and dagger types both obvious and inept, they managed to trip up themselves.

C+
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