No one could accuse Closed Circuit of not being current. It captures key fears in this day and age: international terrorism and its connected shady government dealings. It is a great pity that the film is so lifeless.
A bomb goes off in London, annihilating Borough Market and killing a large number of people. A suspect, Farroukh Erdogan (Dennis Moschitto) is apprehended and preparations are made for the high-profile trial. Erdogan’s lawyer dies suddenly and a new defence attorney, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) takes his place. Due to classified material required as evidence, the government appoints an additional defence lawyer - a Special Advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall). Rose and Simmons-Howe once had an affair and are forced to keep it secret so as not to jeopardise the case. As the trial progresses, the pair uncover increasingly-sinister information. It is not long before a government conspiracy is discovered.
The film starts quite well. The initial explosion is directed in a unique and different way – seen from multiple closed circuit cameras, splitting the screen. The every-day banality of the victims’ behaviour in the build-up to the event makes for a chilling watch. There are some nice surveillance touches which certainly feel authentic. The underhandedness of the intelligence agencies, to get a result by any means, is decidedly creepy.
The central conceit, on which the film rests – Rose and Simmons-Howe’s romantic history threatening to disrupt the case – is a dismal and unexciting plot device. The eternally peeved-off pair regret the affair simply because it’s affecting their work. Not the sexiest set-up to re-ignite the flames of passion. Of course, those flames are re-ignited, but to little cinematic effect. Both the leads are hugely unlikeable. The only redeeming feature in each of them is a commitment to their work. Hall is unpleasantly frosty throughout and the Australian Bana is a horrible toff (with a questionable plummy accent).
The film is held back by expositional dialogue. There is so much information, leadenly conveyed, that the human story is engulfed by it. It impedes the characterisation too. While these facts and figures may push the action forward it does little to flesh out the characters. Most lines sound like recitations from a law book.
There is a top notch cast but an astounding number of performances miss the mark. The talented likes of Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles, Anne-Marie Duff and, most notably, Eric Bana all fail to deliver. The director even manages to elicit a bad performance from Jim Broadbent. Kenneth Cranham (as the judge) is an exception, as is Riz Ahmed who plays a sinister agent. That, sadly, is not enough to save the film. It is flatly directed by John Crowley. As well as the performances lacking pizzazz so does the courtroom jousting and any action involved. It all descends into an underwhelming climax. There is no visible attempt at a cinematic style. The result feels less like a film, more like any generic TV drama.