Cinema Review: Closed Circuit

'Closed Circuit' Trailer: Eric Bana

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.

Disappointing.

Chris Lavery

12A (See IFCO for details)

96 mins

Closed Circuit is released on 25th October 2013

Closed Circuit – Official Website

 

 

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Cinema Review: Iron Man 3

Iron-Man-3-Toys-Extremis-and-Iron-Patriot-Armor

 

DIR: Shane Black • WRI: Shane Black, Drew Pearce • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: John Toll • ED: Peter S Elliot, Jeffrey Ford • DES: Bill Brzeski • Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau, William Sadler, Rebecca Hall

After making his name with his ground breaking screenplay for 1987’s Lethal Weapon, Shane Black went on to achieve writing credits on films such as The Last Boy Scout, The Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight. He then disappeared off the Hollywood radar for close to a decade, before returning in some style with his 2005 directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Despite not being a major player at the box-office, this film re-established Black’s standing in the industry, and gave its stars Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer roles to die for. While Kilmer has only occasionally threatened to build on his performance under the stewardship of Black, the previously troublesome Downey Jr has seen his career going from strength to strength, to the point that he is now the face of two major franchises, Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.

Along with last year’s Marvel Avengers Assemble, and his brief cameo in The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 3 marks Downey Jr’s fifth appearance as Tony Stark and his alter-ego, and with Black returning to the director’s chair instead of Jon Favreau, it is clear that the careers of both men have come full circle.

Having helped his fellow Avengers to defeat Loki and the Chitauri in New York City, Stark is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when a mysterious terrorist leader known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) announces himself to the world by committing a number of atrocities across the globe. His relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes strained as a result, and with figures from his past re-surfacing in the shape of Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian and Rebecca Hall’s botanist, Dr Maya Hansen, matters quickly become complicated for Stark and those close to him.

Taking its cue from the ‘Extremis’ (a highly advanced virus created by Killian) story arc developed by Warren Ellis, Iron Man 3 has a tough act to follow after the overwhelming success of Marvel Avengers Assemble. In addition, the last stand alone adventure for the wisecracking superhero (Iron Man 2) was somewhat disjointed, despite being enjoyable in the most part, meaning that there were some necessary adjustments to be made this time around.

With all that in mind, it is pleasing to report that the latest chapter in the big-screen adventure of Tony Stark is consistently entertaining and gripping, making it arguably the finest film of the Iron Man series thus far. As ever, the chemistry between Downey Jr and Paltrow is right on the money, and Don Cheadle now looks fully comfortable in the combine roles of Colonel James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes and War Machine.

Upon taking control of the film, Black talked about taking a step away from the premise of Iron Man facing off against another giant robot, and certainly the threat this time is an altogether more human and real-world based kind of threat.

It is also significant that Stark is taken out of comfort zone for a large section of the film, as circumstances mean that he is stranded in Tennessee (when he is presumed dead), where he has to rely on all his ingenuity to repair damage of his own making.

With one $15 million dollar film to his name before taking on this task, there were some question marks about how Black would handle the pressure of a film with such a major budget. His handling of the major set-pieces is extremely efficient, though, and in unison with co-writer Drew Pearce, he has maintained the sharp wit that has been synonymous with his work over the past couple of decades.

This framework was established by Favreau (who reprises his role as former bodyguard turned head of security Happy Hogan) in the earlier films, and blossomed under Joss Whedon in last year’s superhero team up, which makes the decision to hire Black for this film all the more obvious.

If there was a criticism to be labelled at the film, it does become slightly overblown in the extended finale, but considering all that gone before it, the filmmakers had more than earned the right to turn outlandish during the final act.

Stepping up to the plate alongside reliable regulars Downey Jr, Paltrow and Cheadle, Pearce and Kingsley offer plenty of menace, while the often under-appreciated Hall also makes the best of the screen time she is afforded.

With a sequel to Marvel Avengers Assemble (those who are intrigued by that prospect should wait around the end credits) very much in the pipeline, this will not be the last we see of Tony Stark in his iron suit, and on the basis of this film, that can only be a good thing.

Daire Walsh

12A (see IFCO website for details)

130 mins
Iron Man 3 is released on 25th April 2013

Iron Man 3 – Official Website

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Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray

DIR: Oliver Parker • WRI: Toby Finlay • PRO: Barnaby Thompson • DOP: Roger Pratt • ED: Guy Bensley • DES: John Beard • CAST: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Rebecca Hall

Yet another adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic tale of supernatural narcissism, Dorian Gray tells the story of an extraordinarily handsome young man who inherits his grandfather’s valuable estate and finds freedom in a decadent society that craves to exploit his innocence. Upon arriving in London he soon becomes the subject of a portrait by artist Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin) and makes the acquaintance of the witty Lord Henry (Colin Firth), who consistently and eloquently encourages Dorian to pursue a life of thoughtless indifference and reckless pleasure. After the success of the portrait, Dorian weds a young actress – yet quickly betrays her, with consequences most dire, which he has somehow learned to disregard. Indeed, any possible repercussions for his increasingly heinous deeds are not felt by our leading man – as he develops a lust for attention, pathologically exploiting the desires of those around him while inexplicably never losing his youthful looks. However, with every reckless act of debauchery committed, the portrait on the wall becomes ever-so-slightly more disfigured – until years later as Dorian retains his youthful looks it resembles a man so hideous as to mirror the depraved state of his soul… or something like that.

Director Oliver Parker drenches this piece in lavish yet heavy-handed Gothic atmosphere, indulging occasionally in electro-synth and blatant CGI that does not inspire confidence in his vision of the story – which is one that lacks any deliberate flourishes whatsoever. The initial promise of the first act descends into a series of absurd situations strewn together by truly shoddy editing, providing little incentive for audiences to care about this preening egomaniac. Ben Barnes is suitably vacuous in the leading role, playing the hedonistic pretty-boy without a hint of irony – as an exercise in calculated charisma he excels, but without any extra layer of genuine emotion the performance doesn’t hold much merit. Elsewhere Firth and Chaplin are well-cast and amusing in their roles but are left hanging by a weak screenplay. The supporting players also feature the dependable Fiona Shaw as Lord Henry’s jovial aunt while rising star Rebecca Hall is relegated to an afterthought of a love interest. Unfortunately, on the whole, this film does not deliver. Even as the somewhat trashy middle-brow version for contemporary teens it pertains to be, as it plods to a weak finale that barely makes an impact, partly due to the less than stellar production values, but mostly due to the failure of the screenplay to adequately raise the stakes. So, hardly worth catching on the gimmicky release date, but perhaps a camp guilty pleasure to catch on the box some Halloween.

Eoghan McQuinn
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (See IFCO website for details)
Dorian Gray is released on 11th September 2009

Dorian Gray – Official Website

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