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CLOSED CIRCUIT , UK/ USA , 2013 , MPAA Rating : R for language and brief violence

CLOSED CIRCUIT is a big, goofy simulacrum of a political thriller. There are all the key scenes. There are the requisite sotto voiced pronouncements with an eyebrow arched, well, archly. There are people running for their lives through dark streets at ungodly hours. There are double-, triple-, and quite possibly a quadruple-cross. And why that last bit is still an open question is also the reason why this ersatz thriller stumbles, falls, and then goes splat. What we have here is a script jerry-rigged together from bits and pieces of clichés, and spewed forth with a singular lack of style, pacing, or the least trace of intelligence.

All the familiar elements are in place. In addition to those ci-mentioned, there is the barrister, Martin Rose (Eric Bana), called in to defend an accused terrorist after the last barrister on the case committed suicide. It’s a tricky case because the Crown has evidence that it prefers not to present in open court, or even to the defendant and his legal team, in the interests of national security. Instead there is an advocate appointed to hear the evidence and, in a closed court behind locked doors, and then make the case to the judge that the evidence should be presented. The advocate is Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), who is, of course, an old girlfriend of Rose’s from whom she parted on very bad terms. There is more legal fol-de-rol that forces them to lie in a sworn statement, and, further of course, have contact even though their careers depend on them staying apart. In ancillary action, there is an American reporter (Julia Stiles) who shows up to stretch after jogging and be told off by Rose. There is the hidden agenda that Rose stumbles upon, and by hidden I mean painfully obvious but somehow missed by everyone else. There is the hollow bonhomie of a Home Office functionary (Riz Ahmed), and a gang of MI5 and MI6 agents with the collective smarts of a semi-trained koi carp. Seriously. They are an inept bad of undercover operators whose greatest talent is making blunders that can be construed as a subconscious cry for help. Like always keeping the same cab handy for when Rose hails one, as though he won’t notice that the license number, displayed prominently right in front of him, never varies. No matter the time. No matter the place. As for the surveillance teams sent to shadow Rose, they are as non-descript as a kick in the shin.


When, after uncovering embarrassing facts about the case, things heat up for Rose and Simmons-Howe, and then they do singularly stupid things to avoid being caught by the nefarious black ops that comes after them. They use cell phones. They stand in front of brightly lit windows. They go to exactly where those nefarious black ops types will look for them. In some cases, the very first place they would look if said agents weren’t themselves so hopelessly dim. As for things heating up for the ex-lovers in any other fashion, it’s about as sexy as a lead balloon. There is zero chemistry and the heat their rekindled passion generates hovers somewhere around the freezing point. I’m not sure that all energy dissipates to the point where any movement at the atomic level ceases, but it comes very close. Fluttering around the edges are Ciaran Hinds as Rose’s bluff and amiable colleague, and Jim Broadbent as the government man who turns up with a twinkle in his eye to drop lightly veiled threats that give Rose pause, and exasperate an already irked audience with both their stunning banality and penchant for being complete non-sequitors.

CLOSED CIRCUIT shows lots of footage purportedly taken by the dense array of close circuit cameras covering London. Why it is used as the title, though, of this flick makes as little sense as the flick itself. For a much better film on a similar topic, take in 1986’s DEFENSE OF THE REALM, a taut and tightly plotted thriller that is cerebral as well as heart-stopping. You’re welcome.


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