DVD Review - Closed Circuit

Eric Bana (left) and Rebecca Hall play
 lawyers in the thriller "Closed Circuit"
Director John Crowley's film starts with a look at dozens of surveillance cameras all over Borough Market in London, England. I recall an episode of Homeland where the CIA were monitoring surveillance cameras throughout Washington, DC. One assumes these cameras in London have the same purpose, to prevent a terrorist attack. With no imminent threat at hand and no one that's identified with the British government, thoughts of terrorism prevention isn't forefront on the mind. Instead, thoughts of privacy invasion or needless noises enter the brain, but that's only temporary as the inciting incident immediately blows in our face.

The problem with screenwriter Steve Knight's opening, if this indeed was his opening, is these surveillance cameras are meant to be shocking only. They serve no other purpose in the narrative. I get that it's meant to set the tone and convey that Big Brother is watching. It's also assumed that it's these cameras that assist the government in catching the suspected terrorist, but none of that is seen in the movie. The movie instead jumps right into the legal drama and thriller portion.

Because I enjoy legal dramas and thrillers, I was intrigued by the essential question at the heart of this film. Everything is set in the United Kingdom, so it's legal process is slightly different, but Eric Bana (Hulk and Munich) stars as Martin Rose, the defense barrister for the accused terrorist. Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Town) co-stars as Claudia Simmons-Howe, the special advocate for the accused terrorist. Both are representing him, while Jim Broadbent (Gangs of New York and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) who plays the attorney general oversees the whole trial from the outside.

The reason the suspect has two lawyers representing him is because the government agency known as MI-5, which is the British equivalent to the CIA, claims the evidence against the suspect can't be exposed in open court. I don't remember the exact verbiage, but exposure of said evidence could be a threat to national security, so the government requests a closed session of court that only the special advocate can attend where she is then sworn to secrecy. She can advise her client, the suspect, but she can't share anything with the defense barrister who would be the one actually speaking during the trial.

What makes things interesting or complicated is that Martin and Claudia used to be lovers, which is against the rules in this situation. The two lawyers aren't supposed to have a prior relationship, let alone a continuing one. They both know this, but they choose not to tell the Lord Chancellor aka the Judge.

The only reason Martin is the defense barrister is because the assigned barrister died. An American journalist, Joanna, played by Julia Stiles, believes the death was due to foul play. This starts Martin on an investigation to uncover what the government is hiding and what he can't know in that closed session.

Strangely, there is a scene where Martin is taken to Borough Market and he's shown the aftermath. There is a big hole where the station used to be. For Americans, it's reminiscent of New York's Ground Zero following the destruction and dust-clearing of the World Trade Center. While there have been some who claimed that attack was an inside job, perpetrated or aided by the government, most dismiss those theories as outlandish. However, this movie gives credence to those outlandish theories and proffers this terrorist attack as an inside job.

Yet, Riz Ahmed (Four Lions and The Reluctant Fundamentalist) plays Nazrul Sharma, the government agent who by the end is the government arm of evil. He's the Pakistani who in any other film would be designated Middle Eastern bad guy, but here he works for the government acting to help cover-up the origins of this inside job, terrorist attack.

He nor the suspect are given any real voice to speak to this contradiction. There is this face that is associated with terrorists. Ahmed knows that face all too well having played it in the satire Four Lions (2010), but if this movie is attempting to subvert that face and say that instead a terrorist's face can be as white as Jim Broadbent's, then why put Ahmed in this role? Ahmed should have played Martin.

Again, because I'm a sucker for legal dramas or legal thrillers, I went with it. However, I feel like it would have been better handled though in the hands of The Good Wife.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language and brief violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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