DIR: John Crowley • WRI: Steven Knight • PRO: Tim Bevan, Chris Clark, Eric Fellner • DOP: Adriano Goldman • ED: Lucia Zucchetti • MUS: Joby Talbot • DES: Jim Clay • CAST: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent, Ciarán Hinds
Martin Rose (Bana) is an arrogant but brilliant defence barrister. When a terrorist attack hits London and the main suspect’s lawyer dies, Rose is called in to replace him. The prosecution’s case against the suspect, Farroukh Erdogan (Moschitto), involves classified evidence which can only be heard in closed court proceedings.
The Attorney General (Broadbent) must appoint a Special Advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall), who has clearance to see the classified evidence and is tasked in representing Erdogan during the “closed” proceedings. Once the evidence is revealed to Simmons-Howe, she and Erdogan’s defence lawyer, Rose, are no longer allowed to communicate due to national security.
But when secrets begin to emerge and lives are endangered, they must work together, despite their personal history, to seek the truth.
In Closed Circuit, director John Crowley (Intermission, 2003) tries very hard to ask important questions like what costs are acceptable in order to “protect national security”? And, at what point does protecting national security become an easy excuse to curtail freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Questions that are certainly topical in today’s world of Wikileaks and more recently, the NSA and GCHQ mass-surveillance operations revealed by Edward Snowden.
However, when it comes to stories of secrets and conspiracies, you get the nagging feeling that this sort of thing has been done before and done better. One notable example being Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (2010).
Crowley effectively punctuates his film with scenes using multiple CCTV camera angles of the same event making an interesting point about whether we’re right to be paranoid about the all-seeing surveillance state. But when he also has his characters continually shoot suspicious glances at CCTV cameras or strangers in the crowd who may, or may not, be secret service agents, you feel that Crowley is trying a bit too hard to get his point across.
Scripted by Steven Knight, who has written some exceptional scripts detailing life in gritty London including Redemption (2013), Eastern Promises (2007) and Dirty Pretty Things (2007), again produces an admirable script focusing on the morally grey area between seeking true justice and protecting the public at large. So it’s unfortunate when the plot really begins to stretch the limits of credibility as it approaches the third act and asks a lot of your willingness to suspend your disbelief to see it through to it’s conclusion.
As in any conspiracy thrillers, there’s always characters who are not quite what they seem, and when done well, you don’t see the character twists coming. But alas, Closed Circuit doesn’t do a great job in providing genuinely unforeseen twists. It won’t spoil the plot to point out how dastardly Broadbent’s Attorney General comes across from the very start. It’s almost a bit pantomime. (“Oooh, he’s clock-watching during a funeral, he’s definitely a baddie!”)
It’s also a shame to report how uninvolving the central relationship between Bana’s Martin and Hall’s Claudia is, as both actors have both done some very accomplished work in the past. Perhaps because this relationship, and the history they share together, is never really given enough screen time early on to help us believe in it later when the thriller aspect of the film kicks off. A sense of a lack of chemistry between the pair is also prevalent throughout most of their scenes, excruciatingly noticeable in the hotel room scene.
All in all, what looks like a good little taut conspiracy thriller on paper with a great cast and accomplished writer, in reality adds up to much less than the sum of its parts. Bana, Hall, and especially Broadbent, can all do much better than this.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Closed Circuit is released on 25th October 2013