Release: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Shortly after seeing Closed Circuit, my brain short-circuited.
After a serious cerebral work-out trying to figure out why any of the events that occur in this British pseudo-psychothriller really matter, I may have injured myself. I apologize if this review doesn’t come out all that coherently and/or if details are botched.
Despite the film’s best intentions to remain an involved, tense and compelling examination of the effects of what happens when concerned citizens get involved in an oppressive government’s affairs — all it can really muster up the strength to do is tease an audience willing to participate. Indeed, the film has a very interesting concept and the cast is relatively inspired. As well, it contains potent subject matter: who doesn’t love a good government-bashing every now and then? There are even several considerably compelling sequences, though they are rather scattered throughout an intensely dialogue-driven narrative. But the film goes nowhere, often veering off course into some yawn-inducing segments that wind up providing more loose ends than tying current ones up. At the end of this film you’re likely to be asking yourself why you just sat through that.
The more basic issue with the film is that there’s almost no payoff at all; that’s mainly due to the narrative being largely unsatisfying — equal doses distancing and too convoluted for one to care much about it or for the individuals in supposed crises.
Closed Circuit is the unsettling story of a corrupt court case that goes public in London, ostensibly set in the present-day. After an explosion kills over one hundred people in the downtown area, two lawyers — Martin Rose (Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall) — are called upon for an unusually tricky legal defense concerning one of the suspected bombers. The British attorney general (Jim Broadbent) has announced that there will be two sessions in which information shall be disclosed concerning the incident — an open court session proceeding a closed one; if that sounds a little fishy, a little disconcerting, well that’s the main selling point Closed Circuit is nagging you with here. It’s no new strategy, but in this case it’s a pretty interesting situation given the events.
As per the instructions given to Martin and Claudia by the presiding judge, the two go a long period without communicating with each other by any means, nor do they receive information through each other or are seen in public together; they are only to meet independently with a third party — a man named Devlin (Ciarán Hinds) who will discuss matters in private with each lawyer. Given some history between the two, it’s even more crucial that they remain out of contact with each other, in case they get too emotional around each other and threaten an already delicate legal situation. Of course, the two go as long as they can separated before they naturally break that code when their situations go from bad to worse.
To make things more complicated (and this is where your brain’s computing power really starts to kick-in here, hence your future headache), one of Britain’s top security enforcers, a government-run agency called MI5, could be implicated in the investigation into what’s generally being regarded as a terrorist attack against the country. As Claudia and Martin continue to dive into their investigation, several suspicious individuals begin lurking around in their vicinity, even despite the two’s initial willingness to comply with the conditions of their assignments. In Claudia’s case, a shady Middle-Eastern agent named Nazrul (Riz Ahmed) is perpetually looking over her shoulder, trying his best to be polite and as “friendly” as possible. At least, those are the initial appearances.
When the convoluted plot fully reveals itself somewhere near the end of the middle third of the film, it’s clear that he’s only a pawn in this elaborate government conspiracy that now threatens the lives of both lawyers.
Had the film not been obsessively talking to itself for most of the time, getting into the minds and lives of these characters would be surely worthwhile (and achievable). It would’ve provided this film a level of psychological dysphoria unmatched by many films coming out of Britain as of late. Instead, because there’s little character development or demonstration that any one person really is ever in danger at any time, the journey with the characters comes across catchpenny and largely devoid of emotion.
Bana is more or less a decent excuse to see the film, though his character is as haunted by his past towards the tail-end of the film as he is in the beginning. Rebecca Hall as his would-be partner here has a few moments to really shine, and she ends up coming to the rescue in terms of delivering a few of the more compelling lines and owning some of the crucial moments. Hall is actually quite good. Despite the cast’s best efforts to elevate the dull script, the tone continues to isolate and bore. If we were the jury sitting in on this case, we’d require substantially more evidence to see if this movie should be charged guilty of fraud or not.
Recommendation: The title ‘Closed Circuit‘ suggests more about the degree of participation you might feel throughout this film: you could feel a little left-out and isolated from it all. That’s not your fault. On that basis alone, this film is difficult to recommend to many who actually enjoy being a part of the film. If you’re okay with sitting back and being well aware of watching a film, this might be worth checking out. There are some tense moments but these are so sporadic its not even really worth it for that, either.
Running Time: 96 mins.