Movie Reviews by Reel People: 'Closed Circuit'

By Ron and Leigh Martel, Columnists, The Friday Flyer


The title “Closed Circuit” leads us to expect a big brother surveillance thriller. Unfortunately, this is just another standard issue conspiracy melodrama. It attempts to make a responsible political statement but does so irresponsibly. It’s well crafted, but actually makes us yearn for yet another mindless caped action flick.

The story is filled with suspense and intrigue, but the setting is so typically dark and London-esque. There’s a fine line between low-key and boring; and this one leans the wrong way. That’s a little bit of a sticky-wicket for director John Crowley (“Intermission”), who instills an understated pace and has it play like a novel used to cure insomnia.

It’s not that each idea has been done before; it’s that it has consistently been done so much better. We can appreciate and welcome high-minded cynicism, but here it’s too often contrived and formulaic. We’re fans of Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, whose individual performances are up to par as expected. Regrettably, they offer little chemistry with each other or anyone else, so their yield is less than the sum of the parts.

In other words, we were disappointed at every turn because the plot is interesting and timely. It’s also well cast with like-able and capable stars. When a bombing occurs in London, the high-profile terrorism case unexpectedly binds together two ex-lovers on the defense team. This tests the limits of their loyalties and places their lives in jeopardy.

Due to the national security implications from MI5, MI6, or both, the trial will be a closed hearing and as secretive as the Canyon Lake POA hearings. The Old Bailey has been London’s Central Criminal Courthouse for centuries. The highest and most serious degree of jurisprudence is delivered with comical wigs and wacky robes for all parties.

Screenwriter Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”) portrays attorneys Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) as dedicated professionals committed to uncovering the truth, no matter where it leads. Their prior love affair legally prohibits them from working together, but what’s a little whoopee amongst friends?

As they begin to uncover secrets, they start to realize people around them are dying suspicious deaths. The by-the-book procedurals soon become cloak and dagger operations. Bloody hell, the case is challenging enough without betrayal and paranoia, but government operatives and assassins were not in the brochure. Oh yeah, as an afterthought, there are closed circuit video cameras throughout London, thus the title.

Naturally, we’re supposed to ask ourselves how to balance security and freedom. It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Of course, the Brits viewed Franklin as a traitor to the Crown, so that quote probably doesn’t mean that all that much there anyway.

The cast is rounded out by Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles and Cianan Hiinds, who all add adequate depth to the story. This further exposes the porous script and tedious direction. It takes itself so seriously but is as dull and stodgy as an English butler. The Bana ? Hall pairing is enjoyable, but just not nearly strong enough to carry this disappointing muck to a level worth spending ten bucks or wasting your Netflix pick.

“Closed Circuit” is 96 minutes and rated R for language and brief violence. We’re not sure if this movie is as bad as it seems or if the “Law and Order” TV series has educated Americans too well on what a courtroom drama could be. Each time this court announces it will be fair and transparent; it’s as if they’re mocking themselves.

This show is not Candid Camera and not much to do with surveillance, but it tries so hard to be a political thriller, legal chronicle and romantic drama. With the timeliness of the recent Boston bombings and other world terrorism events, this unnerving story may unwittingly be making the best case for the founder of WikiLeaks; ugh.

Ron's Rating: D Leigh's Rating: D