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Political thriller ‘Closed Circuit’ lacks thrills
From the beginning, Closed Circuit (starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciaran Hinds and Jim Broadbent) is visually appealing and engaging, but it fails to deliver on its promise of intrigue and suspense.
Directed by John Crowley, the movie tells the story of two barristers defending a man accused of orchestrating a terrorist attack in London. When Farroukh Erdogan’s lawyer commits suicide, Martin Rose (Bana), a recently divorced and morally ambiguous barrister, is assigned to defend him. Rose’s former lover, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall), is the special advocate who represents Erdogen when the prosecution presents evidence in a secret trial. Although legally forbidden to interact, Rose and Simmons-Howe find themselves in the middle of a deadly conflict with the British government when they discover a politically charged secret that threatens to destroy them.
The movie opens with a series of shots from security cameras on a London street. The audience is briefly introduced to individuals and couples walking through the street as a truck backs up to a store. A man yells at the driver, telling him he can’t park there, but everyone else ignores him. A few moments later, the truck explodes and the views from the cameras turn to static.
This opening scene is riveting. As it plays out, an ominous feeling creeps through the audience. Even though you know what’s going to happen, you can’t help but be drawn into the scene. You can’t take your eyes off the inevitable tragedy. You see what’s coming, and you still watch. And that sums up the entire movie.
Visually, it’s stunning, and the shots are striking, but for all the tension, there’s never any mystery. You know what’s going to happen before the characters do. The twists are too easy and the clues are too obvious. It’s as if Crowley wanted to give audiences a chance to figure out the mystery for themselves, so he hammers away at any foreshadowing. The result is a feeling of constant restlessness without any relief. The big reveals don’t ease the story’s built-up agitation because you can see them coming from a mile off.
Ultimately, what the movie lacks is an enticing script. The story is original, but the writing is lazy. The acting is solid, but Bana and Hall’s performances are stifled by the limits the screenwriter places on them. Whereas the dialogue revolving around the characters’ personal lives is spirited and provocative, the story’s political issues are swept aside by action sequences.
For a plot centered around the moral question of secret courts in a democratic society, the movie has little to say on either side of the issue. The movie presents a view of the British government which is hardly nuanced, preferring to brand the various players as “all good” or “all bad” rather than explore their motivations.
The end brings an unlikely and unsatisfying conclusion to the story, leaving you as confused and tense as you were during the movie. But maybe that was the point. Maybe Crowley was trying to show that chaos is dangerous, but too much government is treacherous. Maybe.
But I don’t think so.