Film Review – Closed Circuit
Are movie names important? I think so; they let the viewer know what they might be in store for. A perfect example is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It reveals the object of the movie, the ark, and then lets the audience know there are raiders after that object. Not scholars, not Nazis, not adventurers, but raiders. It speaks of adventure, treasure, and people who are willing to cross a few lines to get what they want. Another great name is Sharknado. It’s a tornado with a bunch of sharks in it. WTF? Exactly. So with a movie called Closed Circuit that takes place in London, one would expect a film that dealt with the ubiquitous presence of closed circuit cameras that populate the city. Open and constant surveillance is the norm there, and sounds like the subject matter of a great thriller. Closed Circuit features a lot of surveillance-like footage, but none of it serves as a major plot point; it’s there, but it’s not doing much. They might as well have called it Wool Skirt, because the female lead wears a wool skirt through much of the movie and it functions as both a statement of style and a way to keep her butt covered. It’s there, but it’s not really important in the same way that the closed circuit cameras do nothing to further the plot along. It’s emblematic of a lot of things in this movie; whilst viewing, I just kept asking myself “Why is that there?”
Directed by John Crowley, Closed Circuit is the story of two lawyers (Barristers? Attorneys? I am somewhat confused about the British legal system so let’s just call them lawyers) who are representing Farroukh Erdogan, a man who has been accused of masterminding a terrorist bombing in London. Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is Erdogan’s second defense attorney, after the original lawyer killed himself several months after taking the case. Because there is information in the case that may be detrimental to national security, Erdogan (Denis Moschitto) is also assigned a special advocate who gets to see the secret evidence in a special closed hearing and argue for its presentation in the open court. The defense attorney, Rose, does not get to see any of this information, and is not allowed to even talk to the special advocate after she has been presented with the secret information. This is complicated by the fact that the special advocate is Rose’s former lover Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), and the two have decided not to disclose their former relationship, which is a huge violation of the rules. As they dig deeper into the facts of the case, they realize things are not even remotely as they seem, and the more they find out, the more they realize their own lives are in danger. Do they stop digging, or do they press on to prevent a massive miscarriage of justice?
It sounds like it should be awesome, and it could be, but it’s not. Most of the movie is a stringing together of legal/spy/terrorist thriller clichés, and what’s left is wasted opportunities. The previous romance between the characters doesn’t contribute to the plot much, and great performances by Jim Broadbent as the Attorney General and Ciarán Hinds as a fellow lawyer are criminally wasted. For the most part, this is a by-the-book thriller that follows all of the tropes. There is an outside character trying to guide the hero, who ends up mysteriously dead. There is a scene when a friendly character knows something that only the bad guys would know. The bad guys moralize and talk too much when they should be killing people. Eric Bana’s character is supposed to be really arrogant and annoying, but we only know that because other characters say so; for the most part, he is pretty bland. He must be really smart, though, because it takes him just a couple of days to figure out what took his predecessor months to uncover.
But even though this movie is dull, it’s not horrible. Women are given important parts that often just automatically go to men, and there are small moments of humor that are pretty funny. (Although, the point of humor in this kind of movie is to cut the tension, but since there isn’t any here, it mostly serves to create little moments in the film that are unexpected and interesting.) I mentioned Jim Broadbent before, and I’d like to just say that he is so deliciously evil and corrupt I wish he was a bad guy in every movie. I’m not spoiling anything; he’s pretty creepy from the get go. He’s got this wonderful almost Snidely Whiplash thing going on. But, I mostly just found this movie frustrating because it is so mediocre. It has the bare bones of something good, but that potential just isn’t realized. I can’t recommend it, but your head won’t explode or anything if you go and see it.