Closed Circuit – John Crowley and the film that should have been better. (Film Review)

Off to a great start, Closed Circuit opens with several squares of footage as shot through twelve CCTV cameras until a bomb goes off and we realise we’ve been watching the footage just prior to a terrorist attack. During the opening credits we see a Turkish man, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto) taken into custody and the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) defending the behind-closed-doors nature of the impending trial. It may be familiar stuff, but the set up is interesting – even though we’ve seen countless terrorist style films of this nature – the premise of being watched through CCTV cameras (always) and civil liberties being compromised posited against the need for surveillance in order to gather information crucial to the interception of planned attacks prior to fulfilment is still fresh. In fact just this week in Australia, a row is going on because the Australian Government have been exposed as tapping the phones of the Indonesian Government, a country that played host to a terrible terrorist attack in 2002 that targeted Australians in Bali. Since the war on terror entered our lives, watching YOU has become de rigour.

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And then oddly, the film falls apart. Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is assigned as the defence lawyer for the accused after the previous defence lawyer committed suicide(!) Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall)  is the defence lawyer in the closed hearings, and (of course and unfortunately for the film) Claudia and Martin used to be lovers but have chosen to keep their old affair a secret because they both want to work the high-profile case. Suddenly it’s not quite so interesting huh?

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The film then plays itself out with several neat little twists and turns, but there are odd lacklustre components that prevent Closed Circuit ever being all it can be. The cast is made up of fine actors, the director (John Crowley)  has a history of being really interesting, and they have a wonderful writer on board (Steven Knight) but something goes terribly wrong. The plot may not be entirely fresh and exciting, but its enough for this genre which the British can make really good films from; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy being a good example. Eric Bana is strong, and makes us like a very unlikable character, but his chemistry with Hall is all off, which makes their feelings for each other unconvincing.  Cinematographer Adriano Goldman has washed everything in grey, making London look like a drippy sludge puddle hardly worth defending. Also very strange when you have an actor like Denis Moschitto on hand,   focus remains on Broadbent as the aporetic Attorney General instead of the enormously interesting Farroukh Erdogan, whose higher profile would have really taken this thriller somewhere exciting. Closed Circuit is a film that looks like a lot of small errors coming together to strip a film of its potency rather than a good film with something specific letting it down.

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It’s a great shame because if the film retained its focus, it would have been great to see some of its issues handled confidently. The CCTV thing is examined a lot, but as I said in the opening paragraph, not necessarily this close to the attempts to justify scrutiny. A very modern London would have dragged some of the decade old plotting into the now, and provided a strong opposite to the underhanded shenanigans of MI5. The film almost pulses with its lost opportunities, including the great cast who are relegated to weird little sub plot roles, such as Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed and Ciarán Hinds who all should have been utilised more and to better effect.  This is where a poor script has let everyone down, forcing us to listen to the wrong person, look in the wrong direction and turn our back on the most interesting action at crucial moments.

Which is probably an accurate depiction of constantly looking through multiple CCTV cameras.

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