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In Theaters: CLOSED CIRCUIT (2013)

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CLOSED CIRCUIT
(UK - 2013)

Directed by John Crowley.  Written by Steve Knight.  Cast: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarin Hinds, Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles, Anne-Marie Duff, Kenneth Cranham, Riz Ahmed, Denis Moschitto, Hasancan Cifci, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Jemma Powell. (R, 95 mins)

A last-ditch effort to grab adult moviegoers before summer's end, the British CLOSED CIRCUIT is an entertaining, if very routine conspiracy thriller/courtroom drama that never really exerts itself but it's a nice break from endless CGI, explosions, and superheroes and, at a lean 95 minutes, doesn't overstay its welcome.  Maybe the dilemma is that we've seen so many of these kinds of thrillers that it's tough to do anything new with them.  It's hard to be surprised when a film that opens with a terrorist attack in the middle of London ends up involving a government cover-up.  Of course it does.  They all do.


After a suicide bomber blows up a truck in a crowded London square (this scene has an eerie resemblance to the Boston Marathon bombings, even though it shot a year earlier), MI-5 arrests Turkish immigrant Farroukh (Denis Moschitto) and brands him the mastermind.  British courtoom law in cases like this mandate a regular defense attorney and a special counsel to function as the defense in closed-door, classified hearings so hush-hush that the other defense attorney and even the defendant himself cannot be privy to it.  When Farroukh's original appointed lawyer mysteriously commits suicide (uh huh, sure), the job falls to his colleague Martin Rose (Eric Bana), who, of course, once had a fling with special counsel Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall).  Rose starts to get a sneaking suspicion that Farroukh is a patsy and that the British government, represented in sinister fashion by the Prime Minister's Attorney General/attack dog (Jim Broadbent), might have been using Farroukh as a double agent.  Naturally, more revelations come and more characters drift in and out of the narrative--the always-welcome Ciarin Hinds as a defense investigator, Kenneth Cranham as the judge, and Julia Stiles as an American journalist at the NY Times' London branch--and while the film moves along nicely and never drags, there's very little here that you haven't seen before.


CLOSED CIRCUIT is written by Steve Knight, best known for scripting Stephen Frears' DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (2002) and David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES (2007), and also the writer/director of this summer's earlier Jason Statham drama REDEMPTION.  Knight has usually focused on the downtrodden being used and abused by the seedy underbelly of London, but here just content with a standard-issue conspiracy outing.   Knight and director John Crowley act like this is the first film where the heroes are shocked that a shady wing of a trusted government is throwing people under the bus to cover its own ass.  I generally enjoyed CLOSED CIRCUIT--it does offer a more in-depth look at the British legal system than I was expecting and if you're a fan of any of the main members of the excellent cast and have a couple of hours to kill in the afternoon, it's worth a discount matinee--but it's the kind of movie that you won't even remember by the time you get home from the theater.  It's surprisingly lacking in substance compared to Knight's previous scripts.  CLOSED CIRCUIT just feels like an assignment for him.  Ultimately, it's a decent time-killer, though I'm really surprised Focus rolled it out nationwide.  Does anyone really think this is going to be a big hit at multiplexes?


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