Director: John Crowley
Cast: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Denis Moschitto, Julia Stiles, Jim Broadbent
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 21 November 2013
Synopsis: From the producers of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY comes the new international thriller, CLOSED CIRCUIT. Following a mysterious explosion in a busy London market, the police swoop, a suspect is detained, and the country prepares for one of the most high-profile trials in British history. Two exceptional lawyers with a romantic history step into a dangerous web of secrets and lies, and when evidence points to a possible British Secret Service cover up, it's not just their reputations, but their lives that are at stake.
Approximately half a million closed circuit cameras are mounted in London to keep watch on its streets, its buildings and of course its citizens. That amounts to about one for every 32 citizens. Befittingly then, the movie opens with surveillance camera footage of its citizens looking through London’s Borough Market neighbourhood, first four, then eight, then 12 and so on. As the multitude of CCTV footage fills the screen, a terrorist bomb explodes, filling the air with smoke and rubble.
‘Closed Circuit’ is one of those thrillers set in a post-9/11 geopolitical context, and like many of its ilk, poses a lifelike scenario to question the means necessary to protect ordinary citizens from national security threats. Cutting straight to several months later, this one focuses on the events that follow after a lone suspect, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), claimed by the Government to be the only surviving member of the call responsible for the bombing, is set to be charged in court for his crime. Peculiar to the British legal system, he will have two lawyers - the first to be his attorney in open court; and the second, termed a Special Advocate, will hear the classified evidence to be kept secret for reasons of national security.
Eric Bana’s Martin Rose plays the former, stepping into the hot seat after the apparent suicide of the previous lawyer and his friend. The latter is played by Rebecca Hall’s Claudia Simmons-Howe, whom Martin is not allowed to meet, share information or have any sort of a relationship. Just happens that Martin and Claudia used to be lovers, a clandestine affair that led to a bitter end to Martin’s marriage and whom both are still reeling from - better to keep that then from the coolly menacing attorney general (Jim Broadbent) who seems to be keeping tabs on their every move and offering words of prescient advice and even warnings.
As de rigueur for a British thriller, there is a conspiracy involved, one that reaches up the highest echelons of Government – think the MI5, the British secret service. Steven Knight, the screenwriter of ‘Dirty Pretty Things’, ‘Eastern Promises’ and the most recent ‘Redemption’ spins a fairly engaging mystery with some interesting supporting characters - Martin’s partner Devlin (Ciaran Hinds) who got him the job in the first place; the MI5 operative Nazrul Sharma (Riz Ahmed) who seems to have some vested interest in seeing Farroukh put down; and even a New York Times investigative reporter Joanna Reece (Julia Stiles) who had close ties with Farroukh’s deceased former lawyer.
While it isn’t terribly clever, the narrative serves its purpose in being fodder for the film’s central conceit. Just how important are the principles of transparency and openness, especially in a situation where the two seem necessary compromises for the protection of millions of lives? How important are the rights of an individual compared to the rights of the collective majority? Knight’s writing is nuanced enough not to push any sort of agenda and instead allows his viewer space to ponder and draw his or her own conclusions; and on Crowley’s part, he does a fine job balancing the labyrinth subplots, keeping the story humming at a brisk pace.
The impeccable ensemble also gives the movie a sharp boost. Bana brings urgency and gravitas to his role as the defense attorney unwittingly caught up in matters way above his head, while Hall exudes intelligence as his peer tangled in the very same web of cover-ups. Hinds, Stiles, Ahmed do their best in their roles, but it is Broadbent who stands out among them all, his terse and tense exchanges with Martin some of the most chilling scenes the movie has going for it.
Even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of brilliance, ‘Closed Circuit’ proves an intriguing probe into the realities of a post-9/11 world, where, in the name of national interest, personal freedom has been justified as an obligatory sacrifice. It is gripping no doubt, staged with mounting tension from start to finish, and gifted with the kind of performances to make this the kind of thriller for a smart, thinking audience.
(Tense and engaging, this political thriller set firmly in a post-9/11 geopolitical context makes for both a gripping and thought-provoking watch)
Review by Gabriel Chong