*** (out of 5)
August 28, 2013
Eric Bana as MARTIN ROSE
Rebecca Hall as CLAUDIA SIMMONS-HOWE
Isaac Hempstead-Wright as TOM ROSE
Ciarán Hinds as DEVLIN
Julia Stiles as JOANNA REECE
Jim Broadbent as ATTORNEY GENERAL
Riz Ahmed as NAZRUL SHARMA
Studio: Focus Features
Directed by: John Crowley
BY KEVIN CARR
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Sometimes I can’t fully explain why I like a flick. It might be the mood I was in when I saw the movie, or it could be just something about the timing of everything. But every so often, I have a soft spot for a movie that probably isn’t really that good.
There are many reasons I probably should have had a sour take on “Closed Circuit.” The film is loaded with problems, from difficult-to-understand British legalese to an ending that fizzles out completely after a pretty solid build-up. However, there’s just something about “Closed Circuit” that I liked, and I’m giving it a pass.
The film tells the story of two barristers in London who are defending an accused terrorist of blowing up a crowded marketplace. Eric Bana plays Martin Rose, the lead in the defense. Rebecca Hall plays Claudia Simmons-Howe, who has been specially appointed to deal with the highly secretive evidence that could jeopardize national security. As the two of them separately start researching the case, they uncover some dangerous information, which leads to legal troubles, assassinations and political corruption.
Like many films I’ve seen over the years, “Closed Circuit” has a real focus problem. For the first half, it’s a pretty taut legal thriller with complications in the nuances of the British judicial system. This can be hard to follow at times, especially for an American audience that is unfamiliar with the details of their courts. However, I kept up and actually enjoyed this part quite a bit.
Unfortunately, about half-way through the movie, it decides it wants to be an action flick and never quite gets out of the chrysalis. There’s a half-hearted chase scene, but some of the key elements that would make this a strong political thriller actually happen off-screen and are only hinted at in the film.
After stumbling in the action portion of the film, the plot never recovers. In many ways, it feels like the movie was only half-written, with a downer conclusion that is fixed with a bizarre ending voice-over that sounds like an afterthought more than it does a planned denouement.
Still, that first half was pretty cool. I think what made that work so well for me is that it gave a new perspective to a story that is overdone in American films. With so many movies these days depicting America’s overreaction to terrorism as well as various films that uncover political and corporate corruption, it’s neat to see things from a British perspective.
Not only does “Closed Circuit” reveal the more global nature of the roots of these problems, but the problems themselves. Terrorism and political corruption are not a unique American concept, and this movie helps reveal that.
Other quality aspects of this movie include some strong performances by Jim Broadbent and Ciarán Hinds, who are brilliant actors but never get the high-level play in movies on this side of the pond.
So even though the film’s plot completely unravels in the last half-hour of the movie, I still enjoyed the set-up enough to enjoy the film well enough to carry me through the muddled conclusion.