Closed Circuit (film review) by Frank Ochieng.

The premise for ‘Closed Circuit’ looked quite promising: a sophisticated political thriller steeped in conspiracy, mayhem and mystery. One was sure that director John Crowley’s (‘Boy A’) stiff-minded intriguing narrative would stand out above the rest of the derivative and crowded suspense capers that invade the big screen from time to time. Although it is a handsome international production that plays into today’s chaotic world of scrutinized governmental watchdogs and terrorist organizations, ‘Closed Circuit’ is informational but never elevates the ante about the genre of conspiracy theory thrillers that we have witnessed numerous times before.

If ‘Closed Circuit’ had something definitive and distinctive to say fresh about the paranoia and cover-ups of our political authorities and the dangerous factions of worldwide criminal units looking to destroy our quality of life then this suspense piece could possibly solidify itself as a percolating political yarn that resonates with purpose. Fine…not every contemporary covert caper can hold a candle up to a classic such as ‘Three Days Of The Condor’ that solidly challenged the conventional concerns of Big Brother and making both the good guys and bad seeds accountable for high-profiling whispering and hushed sessions of chicanery. Still, ‘Close Circuit’ has it absorbing moments but ultimately it cannot withstand its doses of dullness despite some well-acted chops from its esteemed cast of performers.

Closed Circuit (film review), by Frank Ochieng.
Closed Circuit (film review), by Frank Ochieng.

Screenwriter Steve Wright (‘Dirty Pretty Things’) does serve up at times a cogent courtroom drama that features Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as dutiful barristers trying to defend the volatile case of a Turkish suspect accused of the heinous terrorist attack that violated the tranquility of the London streets. When legal eagles Martin Rose (Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall) collaborate on behalf of their embittered client they manage to uncover some shocking behind-the-scene news about some sinister shenanigans that the British government may have played a convincing part in connection to their complicated court case.

The initial mayhem flourishes in the movie’s beginning when an open marketplace during a busy work day is changed forever when a delivery truck suddenly explodes therefore instantly killing many nearby bystanders (approximately 120 victims). The sudden blame for the carnage is placed on the villainous shoulders of Turkish bomber Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). Enter Martin and Claudia. They are assigned to defend Farroukh against the bombing accusations. Soon, existing nagging factors start to cloud the defense of the alleged Turkish terrorist.

For starters, the courtroom officials do not realise that Martin and Claudia were once passionate lovers thus undermining the court’s rule of not sharing any information and swearing off all communication in the process. Hence any indication of prior intimacy between the legal duo could jeopardise the delicate case of Farroukh’s outcome. In short, Martin and Claudia must lie about their previous liaisons. The fact that their coupling had once destroyed Martin’s marriage could very well do the same to ruin the possible innocence of the defendant.

Of course, it does not help the cause of Farroukh’s predicament when it is revealed that the governmental authorities are withholding crucial secretive evidence against Farroukh that could actually benefit Martin and Claudia in front of the bench.  There is a covert court involved where the public’s right to know guarded significant evidence is…well…not the public’s right to know this so-called guarded significant evidence.

So the tease intensifies…will Claudia’s discovery of some uncovered revelations that could exonerate Farroukh threaten to disqualify the working relationship should she inform Martin about her eye-opening discoveries? Can both of these courtroom representatives avoid the temptation of cuddling and resist any lingering nostalgic passions that might still exist? Can Martin and Claudia pull off the impossible and navigate through the deception of whatever sordid game the ‘the system’ is playing at their professional expense?

There is never anything quite explosive (excuse the unintentional pun) about the terrorist tale ‘Closed Circuit’  beyond the courtside chatter about forbidden informational exchanges and the all-too-familiar hostile climate about the topical subject matter of global cretins manipulating the innocent masses with their hideous means of ‘gaining attention’ for their radical causes. Crowley’s stingy by-the-numbers direction and Wright’s stiffened and colorless script denies ‘Closed Circuit’ of any real zip, zest or zing. Even the film’s between-the-lines naughty examination of British government-based hodge-podge perpetrated against the unsuspecting hoi pol-loi feels limp and fails to register with some solid cynicism.

As the leading protagonists, both Bana and Hall try to instill a sense of intrigue, quiet outrage and vulnerability in their roles but the straight-laced material does not allow them much to overcome the bland and mechanical nature of their portrayals despite some decent and disciplined acting. Veteran performer Jim Broadbent’s relevance as the Attorney General barking orders to the advocates not to engage in communicative mode seems rather slight for an actor of his caliber. Still, Broadbent is effective when necessary in presenting the court’s stipulations with menacing conviction. Julia Stiles’s trivial turn as a New York Times reporter thrown into the mix comes off as misplaced and distracting in reference to what is going on in the plotline. Riz Ahmend is interestingly cast as the secret service agent winning over Claudia’s confidence in the hushed-up evidence that he has coughed up for her.

‘Closed Circuit’ had the potential for conveying its cinematic trade as an emotional vacuum for insinuation, interrogation, infiltration and ideology. Instead, it swoops up the lint of an arbitrary character-driven thriller that tediously talks and never erectly walks with creative conviction.

Closed Circuit (2013)

Focus Features

1 hr. 36 mins.

Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Julia Stiles, Ciaran Hinds, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jim Broadbent, Riz Ahmed and Denis Moschitto

Directed by: John Crowley

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Mystery & Suspense/Suspense Thriller/Political Drama

Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2013

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