'Closed Circuit' shorts out
By Kate Erbland, Special to MSN Movies
Sneaking into a crowded summer blockbuster season just under the wire, John Crowley's "Closed Circuit" is seemingly styled as a thinking audience's thriller, a procedural drama about a convoluted legal system and the terrorist-terrified population it purports to guard. And it's one that falls flat at nearly every turn. A weak attempt to include romantic intrigue between its beautiful leads (Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, who are both better than this material) doesn't help things along in the slightest, and the final product is a 96-minute-long outing that feels twice as long as it actually is and half as interesting as it should have been.
"Closed Circuit" centers on the aftermath of a horrific bombing in a popular London shopping destination, and the film's overly flashy opening credit sequence delivers a vast amount of exposition and information detailing the actual incident and its victims without much in the way of emotion or investment. Even more bothersome is that same sequence also finds a man to pin the crime on -- illegal immigrant Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), who appears to be the last living member of a guilty terrorist cell -- ensuring that the film picks up in the middle of its central story, leaving a tremendous amount of audience engagement by the wayside.
Despite its title, precious little of "Closed Circuit" has much to do with the United Kingdom's CCTV surveillance system. The film is far more interested in delving into the intricacies of the British legal system, an unabashedly complicated and often boring endeavor with little in the way of satisfying payoff. Bana and Hall star as top-notch lawyers with a personal past who are suddenly thrown together in order to defend the unflinching and tight-lipped Farroukh. As a "special advocate," it's up to Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall) to convince a closed court that certain sensitive and sealed evidence must be ruled viable in order for Farroukh to be appropriately defended. As Farroukh's appointed lawyer, it's up to Martin Rose (Bana) to piece together a defense for the U.K.'s most hated man.
While they're on the same side, Claudia and Martin's working relationship is meant to be only one thing: absolutely nonexistent. Of course, the pair's torrid past and Martin's sneaking suspicion that the case (and the defendant) aren't what they seem throw them together in dramatic fashion that only comes across as unearned and vaguely uninteresting. Though the film eventually tries to deliver some essential tension once its leads become cognizant of the fact that their every move is being watched (and not even via CCTV), it's too little too late (and too obvious to pack any sort of punch).
Director Crowley does, however, nail the appropriate tone and overall feel for the film. "Closed Circuit" exists in an overwhelmingly cold and sterile environment, the sort of place where nothing good could possibly happen, and its exhausting lack of color and warmth telegraph that with every single frame. Still, even that compelling cinematic oppression can't save "Closed Circuit" from being an instantly forgettable and remarkably unoriginal entry into the crowded summer calendar.
Kate Erbland is a contributing writer for MSN Movies, a critic for Boxoffice magazine and an associate editor for Film School Rejects. She has been writing about movies since 2008, but has been thinking about movies for far longer. She lives in New York City.