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Closed Circuit: Faulty Wiring

by admin August 28, 2013 6:00 am
Closed Circuit: Faulty Wiring

Among the many disappointments of the thrill-free British thriller Closed Circuit is that it wastes such an evocative title on such a bland movie. After all, that name instantly puts one in mind of vintage '70s paranoia pictures like The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor, movies where a lone hero is plunged into a shadowy world of espionage and betrayal, perpetrated by an all-knowing, all-powerful corporate and/or government entity. And the film's opening credits sequence further teases that that's what's in store for viewers, filling the screen with footage gleaned from various closed circuit cameras positioned around a contemporary London neighborhood. At first, we're treated to scenes of ordinary life: people walking and talking, cops directing traffic and vendors peddling their wares. But then the image of a nondescript delivery truck starts to recur on the various monitors as it backs its way into a particularly populous section of the street. Just as a police officer comes over to wave the driver away, the screens go white as an explosion reduces the surrounding area to rubble.

It's a gripping beginning to a film that then almost immediately goes slack. Following the swift arrest of a prime suspect -- a Turkish immigrant named Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), who has a wife and a teenage son -- the government rushes the case to trial, tapping self-possessed lawyer Martin Rose (Eric Bana) to serve as defense attorney after their original choice passed away under sudden and vaguely mysterious circumstances. Also joining the legal team is a Special Advocate for the defense, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), who is legally obligated to not fraternize with Martin in the run-up to their first day in court. The only problem is, they already have fraternized (and then some) in their off-hours and it cost Rose his marriage. Rather than quit such a high-profile, career-making trial, they opt to try and hide this little detail from their superiors -- including the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) and Martin's colleague Devlin (Ciårán Hinds) -- one of many secrets that bubble up to the surface as they dig deeper into the details of the case. Secrets like Farroukh potentially being more than just an ordinary immigrant seduced into joining a terrorist cell and devastating mistakes made by Britain's premiere intelligence outfit, MI5.

Flowing from the pen of Steven Knight, the scribe behind the excellent crime pictures Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, and shepherded to the screen by the same company responsible for the acclaimed 2011 adaptation of John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Closed Circuit doesn't lack for prestige thriller pedigree (though the director, John Crowley, is a genre newbie). Still, those movies had layers on intrigue that this one only hints at. A great thriller doesn't have to throw out a plot twist every 15 minutes or so, but it should establish an atmosphere of sustained tension and the sense that the answers to the various questions at the heart of the story are always just out of the character's -- and our -- reach. Closed Circuit falls short on both counts, telegraphing many of the big reveals and depicting a humdrum world where the mysteries cast only thin shadows. A late-inning plunge into action movie territory, complete with a wild chase, only serves to highlight how thin this material actually is. Perhaps that's why Bana and Hall seem as bored with the proceedings as the audience, acting past each other rather than connecting in any real way onscreen. They seem less like secret lovers and more like casual acquaintances forced together by plot machinations. You're better off imagining the movie that the title Closed Circuit promises rather than watching the film that was made.

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