By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Here’s a decidedly cool movie about an undeniably hot topic.
Closed Circuit is a sophisticated British suspense thriller about an international terrorism trial and a suspected government cover-up.
When a tragic explosion occurs one morning in a crowded market in London, a police manhunt turns up the one surviving member of a suspected terrorist cell. He is apprehended and imprisoned.
Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall play Martin Rose and Claudia Simmons-Howe, lawyers with a romantic past, who find themselves involved on the suspected terrorist’s defense team –- he as the defense lawyer, she as the appointed special advocate.
(Defendants gets two lawyers in certain sensitive cases, and this one turns out to be one of the most high-profile trials — even though it’s a closed trial — in the history of British jurisprudence.)
But when they’re questioned about whether or not they’ve been involved in any way — and, according to British law, they’re not only not allowed to be romantically involved, they’re not even allowed to speak to each other — they are less than forthcoming. They really should recuse themselves but they don’t, even though they know that their love affair (she broke up his marriage) compromises their ability and willingness to avoid contact or conversation.
So they decide to keep their secret from the authorities.
But it turns out and they soon discover that, in the name of national security, the authorities may be keeping a secret or two from them as well. And that, as Martin puts it, they’re being “managed,”which seems underlined by shot after shot of ubiquitous surveillance cameras and point-of-view angles that suggest surveillance and justify the film’s title.
AND that they are being treated as pieces in a chess game. And worse, that their very lives are now in danger, which becomes clearer and clearer as the trial proceeds and corrupt governmental forces make their intimidating presence felt.
In effective support, Julia Stiles plays a reporter, Ciaran Hinds an investigating solicitor, and Jim Broadbent the attorney general.
And the film can use their respective screen presences because Bana and Hall have minimal chemistry.
Director John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A, Is Anybody There?) and screenwriter Steven Knight know that their examination of government secrets and surveillance has a strong contemporary relevance. But they don’t push it, trusting us to see the film in the context of the ongoing contemporary debate about just where the line should be drawn when governmental intrusion into people’s lives and the consequent loss of privacy becomes illegal despite the urgency of combating and thwarting terrorism.
That’s certainly a theme worth thinking and arguing about, one that helps us to overlook otherwise bothersome narrative gaps.
So we’ll defend 2½ stars out of 4 for the paranoid conspiracy suspenser Closed Circuit, a taut and timely thriller that you watch while wondering just who might be watching you.