Closed Circuit is a stylish throwback to the cynical political thrillers of the 1970s. It plays too many familiar notes without much flair or emotion, though, and that’s ultimately its undoing. However, the timing could not be more convenient: Its launching pad is a public bombing in a major city, and its underlying argument is that you can’t trust the government.
Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is a barrister assigned the most high-profile case of his career. He must defend a bombing suspect accused of masterminding a plot that killed hundreds of Londoners. Added difficulty will be assessed for working with his ex-girlfriend, Claudia (Rebecca Hall), a past that needs to be kept very hush-hush during the case.
But something about the charges don’t add up, and why do Martin and Claudia feel like they’re being followed all the time? We know the answer, of course, because director John Crowley shows us plenty of surveillance footage. But what we don’t know is why they’re being followed in the first place; just what are our intrepid former lovers on to?
A note about intrepid former lovers: Films like Closed Circuit don’t need a romance, but this story does need both the Martin and Claudia characters. It’s simple movie economics that hurtles them into a messy relationship, so that’s not technically bad filmmaking, though it might seem that way. And Crowley has really emphasized efficiency — short scenes, just the right number of deeply involved characters — so keeping the entanglements close at hand fits here.
In fact, the only big negative against Closed Circuit is that it doesn’t take enough time to be very unpredictable and create something new. It moves very purposely toward a conclusion it couldn’t miss if it tried, somewhat spoiling what could have been another great turn by Hall and keeping Bana’s career firmly in the forgettable middle-of-the-road.
CLOSED CIRCUIT Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, directed by John Crowley, rated R, 96 mins