Closed Circuit-attachment0

Closed Circuit

Movie Information

The Story: Defense lawyers for a sensitive case involving an alleged terrorist bomber find themselves embroiled in something more than they bargained for. The Lowdown: An unusually smart legal thriller that appeals more to the intellect than your standard action-oriented flick. (Think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.) A strong cast, solid direction and a well-rounded script make this one a must-see.
Score:

Genre: Legal/Political Thriller
Director: John Crowley (Is Anybody There?)
Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles
Rated: R

A first-rate legal thriller from director John Crowley and screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises), Closed Circuit is also a film I fear will get lost at the box office, owing to the lack of a big-draw star and very little promotion from the distributor. That it’s opening on a pretty slack week for appealing choices may help. But if you like your thrillers grounded in political conspiracies — and especially if you like them with a British accent — this should be at the top of your list. What it lacks in star power — let’s face it, Eric Bana has never quite crossed into movie-star status — it makes up for in truly solid casting with Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent and Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist). Crowley’s direction is a lot slicker than it was on Is Anybody There? (2009), and Knight’s screenplay is filled with those little details that enhance a thriller.

The story concerns the trial of a man (Denis Moschitto) charged with the terrorist crime of killing 120 people with a bomb in London’s Borough Market. The trial involves evidence claimed to be so sensitive in nature that the defendant himself is not allowed to know what it is. For that matter, the case requires two defense lawyers — one to defend him in open court, the other to handle the “closed sessions.” And, of course, the lawyers themselves aren’t allowed to share information — something that’s made more complicated in this particular situation because the open-court representative, Martin Rose (Bana), and closed-session one, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall), are former lovers. That Claudia and Martin withhold this information from their superiors is sketchy, but as things develop, it may just be the reason they were chosen. Their former relationship compromises them and affords certain powers a degree of leverage should it be needed. (Of course, it will be.) That the pair are not exactly on cordial terms is a separate issue that adds some shading to the proceedings.

Given the genre, very little about the case is what it seems. Something is clearly amiss — starting with the distinct possibility (first suggested by Julia Stiles, playing an American journalist) that the original defense lawyer Martin replaced didn’t commit suicide but was murdered. The more that’s uncovered, the more it becomes apparent that everything is being stage-managed by higher-ups, notably the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent concealing steely determination behind his avuncular façade). Without realizing it, Martin and Claudia have entered a world in which no one is what he or she seems, and they’re playing a game that can only be won by those who control the rules. The title refers to London’s pervasive use of closed-circuit cameras, who controls them, what they record and, perhaps more chillingly, what they can be made not to record. It’s intelligent, compelling drama of a kind we don’t get very often. Seek it out. Rated R for language and brief violence.

Playing at Carolina Cinemas

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

15 thoughts on “Closed Circuit

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    I had no idea this movie existed until ten minutes ago. Now it’s one of my most anticipated forthcoming films.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have an Australian release date, despite Mr. Bana toplining.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Yes, you’d think Mr. Bana might have some appeal over there. Then again, I’ve gotten the distinct impression that Australian — much like the British — have a remarkable tendency to dislike their own.

    I’m just glad to see that Focus has started promoting it with some TV spots.

  3. Big Al

    “British — have a remarkable tendency to dislike their own.”

    Curious. Examples?

    I do observe that the Brits seem to enjoy American television more than we do. I fall into the minority opinion that British television, at least from the late 1970s to about 2005, is far more original.

  4. Ken Hanke

    The “New Coke” site doesn’t like your fancy special characters. Actually, it doesn’t like a lot of things.

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    I’ve gotten the distinct impression that Australian — much like the British — have a remarkable tendency to dislike their own.

    We seem to take against anyone who leaves Australia for greener pastures, right up until the moment they become insanely successful. At that point, we even claim New Zealanders as our own.

  6. Lisa Watters

    I actually saw the trailer for this on hulu.com and it definitely looked like a ‘must see’ even from that.

  7. Ken Hanke

    We seem to take against anyone who leaves Australia for greener pastures, right up until the moment they become insanely successful. At that point, we even claim New Zealanders as our own.

    That may be true, but from the outside looking in my perception is that when they become “insanely successful” even greater resentment kicks in. Granted, my experience is limited to a handful of people and Australian critics (I’ve yet to find one of those I regarded as credible).

  8. Ken Hanke

    I actually saw the trailer for this on hulu.com and it definitely looked like a ‘must see’ even from that.

    I’d catch it this week/weekend (it opened today) because I just don’t have a good feeling about it drawing an audience (I’d be glad to be wrong).

  9. Ken Hanke

    “British — have a remarkable tendency to dislike their own.”

    Curious. Examples?

    Read the British critics — and this goes way back and includes things other than movies. They have traditionally ignored, for example, their own composers and many of their own writers. The most virulent detractors of British film have almost always been the British.

  10. Lisa Watters

    Thanks for the heads up Ken – I’ll sneak out of work early next week to catch it before it goes. Don’t tell anyone though.

  11. Jeremy Dylan

    That may be true, but from the outside looking in my perception is that when they become “insanely successful” even greater resentment kicks in.

    This is true from certain sectors of the media. We refer to it as “tall poppy” syndrome.

  12. Jeremy Dylan

    They have traditionally ignored, for example, their own composers and many of their own writers. The most virulent detractors of British film have almost always been the British.

    From my experience, this is a question of people whom they feel betraying the national character.

    The British media is still very charitable toward the wonderful Armando Iannucci, despite him picking up sticks and working at HBO. This is because his work is still cynical and biting.

    However, Richard Curtis gets all kinds of shit poured on him by the UK press because he writes things about pretty people making out and dancing to 60s pop music. This is an oversimplification of both filmmakers, of course, but their key distinction is that Curtis is optimistic and places a high premium on joy, which runs contrary to the national character.

    This also seems to be where much of the homegrown criticism of U2 comes from.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Well, I don’t agree with you about either how wonderful Ianucci is (I liked the one movie), nor the precise reasons for the British media praising one and damning the other. But you’re not comparing people who are typically reviewed by the same people — most media services have distinct critics for TV and film. There’s more at work here than one makes happy movies and the other is considered more serious. (That’s what it comes down to.) Still, it would be more instructive to compare filmmaker to filmmaker. I’m really trying to think of a homegrown filmmaker that has not been villified by Brit critics. Maybe Ken Loach because he makes dreary movies about working class people that you can scarcely understand. I guess Mike Leigh qualifies.

    But this is not new. They have always denigrated or overlooked their composers. They paid no attention to Elgar or Delius until long after the Germans had “discovered” them. It’s only within the past 40 years that most of Sir Arnold Bax’s music was even recorded (and he was Master of the King’s Music).

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