'Closed Circuit' misses a step on chemistry, tension
By Roger Moore
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 7:26 p.m.
A terrorist attack, a murderous cover-up, a highly publicized trial and two lawyers — former lovers — forced to stay apart during the proceedings, “Closed Circuit” has all the makings for an incendiary thriller.
But this paranoid, cynical tale of terror and privacy and the ways the intelligence apparatus deals with one by stealing the other never quite catches fire. Blame it on the weak chemistry of the stars, blame it on the way the script refuses to let them develop chemistry and the perfunctory way the story is dispensed with, but the sparks aren't there.
Eric Bana is Martin, an English barrister tasked with defending the lone surviving suspect in a mass-murder terror bombing. Britain's State Secrets act means that he's not the only lawyer on the case. There will be evidence that cannot be heard in open court, and that, for arcane reasons, Martin will not be allowed to hear. Rebecca Hall plays Claudia, another lawyer tasked as “special advocate,” basically the attorney in charge of the suspect's case in that closed-door part of the trial.
They cannot meet, discuss the case or share what they know with one another. That's probably for the best, as she's the reason his marriage broke up. Not that they tell the judge this.
The fact that the first attorney on the case killed himself sets off no apparent alarm bells, but within hours, Claudia and Martin have reason to believe they're under surveillance, and that the people watching may be interested in doing more than just observing.
Director John Crowley once did the lively and surprising Irish dramedy “Intermission,” and he jazzes this up with lots of split screens — as many as 15 surveillance images capture the prelude to the terror attack. “Closed Circuit” is built on parallel threads telling the same story. We see Martin dig, make a discovery, fret over suspicious cabbies and dinner-party guests (Julia Stiles is a reporter). We see Claudia interview the suspect's family and worry over the spy (Riz Ahmed) charged with delivering evidence to her and seeing what she does with it. Neither tells the other what he or she has found out.
At 92 minutes, “Closed Circuit” should feel tidier and tighter than it is. For all the split screens that play up Britain as a surveillance state, Crowley never really ratchets up the paranoia, and never allows the juice to flow through this closed circuit.
Roger Moore is the film critic for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- DVD reviews: ‘12 Years a Slave;’ ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and 'Oldboy'
- Visit ‘Jerusalem’ on the big screen, if not in person
- Ellen’s epic ‘selfie’ sets record, crashes Twitter