Closed Circuit wanted very much to be a blockbuster legal thriller – the good kind – where there’s just the right amount of high-stakes intensity, accurate legalese and star power with, of course, a dash of romance. Unfortunately, the film, starring Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, and directed by John Crowley, leaps and never lands – or crashes – with any excitement.

‘Closed Circuit’ Review

An explosion decimates a London market resulting in the deaths of over 100 people. It’s the result of a terrorist plot, which leaves only one member of the cell to answer for the tragedy, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall) is on board as Erdogan’s Special Advocate, and when his lawyer dies suspiciously of a suicide, Martin Hall (Bana) is called on to pick up his torch.

Herein lies the film’s romantic arc, as Claudia and Martin had an affair in the undisclosed past. Said affair apparently broke up Martin’s marriage, and also should make them ineligible to work on the Erdogan case at the same time. They agree to pretend the past never happened and get to the task at hand, which requires them to not communicate with one another – and, ostensibly, should make it easy for their knowing superiors to keep in line.

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From the outset of their respective investigations, there’s a decidedly sinister tone that takes hold of the film. Instead of some kind of build up to the connection that gives the story its twist, “inside job” screams out from the film’s very early scenes. It’s clear that someone is keeping an eye on Martin via London cabs. It’s equally clear that Claudia is getting some unwanted home guests. Also, Claudia had already been skeptically eyeing an agent (Riz Ahmed), indicating that I, too, should be skeptical of him. Oh, and there was that “suicide” of the lawyer on the case at the very beginning of the film. It’s also worth mentioning that both Claudia and Martin have multiple attempts made on their lives.

Hall, a British stage and screen actress, was, without a doubt, the film’s bright spot and grounding force. Stealing every scene she was in with her deft ways of expressing everything – from confidence to fear, exhaustion, love and bravery – the actress carried the weight of bringing a semblance of reality to the otherwise outlandish film. Every inflection of every word she delivers in her courtroom monologue, having just cast aside her wig and decked out in a black robe, simply sizzles onscreen, finally establishing the emotional investment the narrative was lacking. And then, the camera goes to Martin pacing the street outside and coming across a paper with a headline that screams that The New York Times journalist he had spoken to (Julia Stiles) has died (under mysterious circumstances of course).

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Perhaps the most nuanced part of the film is its opening scene. Security cameras capture footage of the market. First 2, then 4, 6, 8 and finally 12 different views of the scene are shown on the screen. The monotonous, grating sound of a delivery truck backing up echoes. Beep, beep, beep, beep… Boom! That voyeurism pervades the film, and provokes the most interesting dialogue, especially in light of recent events (Edward Snowden). Yes, we’re being watched. Everyone’s being watched – from the lowest of us to the highest of us. That’s a discussion. Everyone getting killed, or almost slaughtered is not. No government agency is that brazenly daft to be that reckless with murdering its own people.

The film noir soundtrack? Cheesy and distracting in this modern film. 9/11 imagery? Understandable, but still cheesy and distracting. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) from Game of Thrones having exactly one scene and one line? Criminal.

Best parts of the film: Rebecca Hall, occasional British witty quipping, Eric Bana rowing on the Thames.

Closed Circuit gives a bad name to conspiracy films. Typically, I’m all for them – not because I want there to be conspiracies, but because I enjoy speculation in its purest form. The speculative, “What if?” So, yeah, what if the terrorist attack in Closed Circuit had a connection to someone or something on the inside? Cool, awesome, I want to watch that, see what the arguments are. But when every other scene in a film has someone meeting an “accidental death,” I get bored and appalled by the egregious belief I’m not going to get bored and appalled.

Closed Circuit is rated R for violence. Ciaran Hinds and Jim Broadbent also star.