Closed Circuit is marketing itself as some sort of Big Brother-esque thriller, a cinematic version of CBS’ Person of Interest , wherein our heroes live and die by the images caught on camera. That concept is sound, especially in the city of London, which has the largest number of security cameras in any western metropolis. The marketing and title feel very heavily influenced by marketers, looking to cash in on all the NSA bullshit recently.
Outside of the first scene, a deftly executed collage of the moments before a bomb detonates in a crowded city market, the film is less about the wired eyes of the State and more about the rigorous lengths the state will go to defend itself, from all enemies foreign and, most especially, domestic. If you’re expecting some action packed thriller, walk away. Closed Circuit is very, very British. Talky, atmospheric and an ultimately sobering experience.
The film wastes little to no time at the start. This is a plot heavy movie, focusing on the trial of alleged bomber Faroukh Edrogan (Denis Moschitto). When the defense attorney assigned to his case commits suicide, the case is reassigned to Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and due to British court proceedings, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), who are allies but cannot communicate due to the classified information Claudia’s defense will be privy to during the trial
The first act limps along not because it isn’t intriguing, but because there is so much to take in and process, from characters to relationships and, to Americans, the intricacies of the British court system. (They still get to wear those nifty wigs, for instance). It’s actually a bit of a slog that forced me to check my watch a few times. It’s not that what was happening on screen wasn’t well done (the film is crafted like the classic 70s political thrillers), it’s that it wasn’t interesting enough!
That changes on a dime at the end of the first act with the escalating incident, which kicks the film into overdrive. Suddenly, Closed Circuit gets a hell of a lot sexier and darker. That’s the real strength of this film, tiny escalations put together like a house of cards, each one precisely placed when and where it needs to be. Does it become somewhat predictable? Maybe, but only if you’re like my mom who guesses the end to every movie ever and read mystery books like they’re going out of style.
However, just because something borders on rote and cliche doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. A movie is as much how it is about than what it is about, to quote a fallen legend. Closed Circuit tries nothing new, but fiercely believes that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There is nothing broke about Closed Circuit , save for the British government. It is an effective talkie thriller enmeshed in paranoia and the post-9/11 / London bombing mindset of ‘protection at all costs’. It paints a damning portrait of the surveillance society and how our obsession with national defense subverts the very nation we need to defend.
Naturally, being a British production, the acting is superior, with such heavyweights as Ciaran Hinds and Jim Broadbent filling supporting roles and knocking it out of the park in their few scenes alongside the mains. Broadbent, so often the jolly old man, is dangerously methodical here, not because he exudes the evil of a corrupt bureaucrat, but because he exudes complete and utter control of the situation. Towards the end as he details what is to become of the trial to Martin, you would think you were talking not to the Attorney General, but to the Devil in a business suit. To Broadbent, it was simply breakfast.
Eric Bana is one of those under-rated actors and I’m still not entirely sure why. Even when the material is bad, he’s still usually the finest part of the film. He’ll always be my favorite Bruce Banner, hands down. Rebecca Hall, recently seen in Iron Man 3 , is always a guaranteed scene-stealer.
Her Claudia is a take no bullshit defense attorney who has a method to everything. The two had an affair before the events of the film and while it’s alluded to, it’s never played up as something monolithic and overly important. These are British lawyers, after all, and British lawyers have a job to do. The two are perfectly cast and make even reading legal briefs thoroughly engaging.
In a summer overstuffed with explosions masquerading as tension, Closed Circuit jumps across the pond and builds up the thrills the old fashioned way. It simmers and comes to a boil at just the right moments. There’s nothing super memorable about the film, but in a time when movies strive and fall short, there is something to be said about a movie that gets in and gets out with a ruthless efficiency.