Closed Circuit - Online Review

'it plays like a feature-length episode of Spooks but it also more than justifies its existence as something above Sunday night TV'

Closed Circuit is a very good example of a very good idea and story being completely mangled by exceptionally wonky execution. Whilst remakes are traditionally greeted with appropriate levels of groaning, this is the type of film that deserves that very treatment: acquire the core story, gut it and strip it and then build it back up as the very decent espionage conspiracy it was always meant to be.

Which isn't to say that there is nothing to enjoy in John Crowley's film of a Steven Knight script just that everything here is undermined on some level by elements of Crowley's film-making or, more often, his storytelling ability. Eric Bana, for example, gives a terrifically accurate performance as an upper-class English barrister. He isn't an action hero or someone willing to get down and dirty too often. His clipped received pronunciation and frequent jaunts out rowing are spot-on depictions of his profession's likely class status, rather than being conveniently forgotten to enable him to jump off more buildings.

The story too has a long way to go and plenty to comment on. Following a vehicle bomb on a London market, defence barrister Martin Rose (Bana) is drafted in after the original counsel commits suicide. Due to the nature of the crime, the defendant also has a special representative in court, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall, sporting another brilliantly upper-class name and accent), who is allowed to hear evidence pertaining to national security where Rose is not. Because of this, once the trial starts, the two are not allowed to communicate. As both begin to dig deeper into the background of their client, they begin to realise that perhaps their defence is not going to be as straight-forward as it seems. It plays like a feature-length episode of Spooks but it also more than justifies its existence as something above Sunday night TV: the plot is appropriately twisty and people like Jim Broadbent show up to fill in the bit parts.

Very quickly though it starts to feel as though Crowley isn't in control of his material. Considering this is a film about a terrorist bomb, it seems a little strange that CiarĂ¡n Hinds' character often appears to be here solely for comic relief, a fact echoed when, just after an opening funeral, Broadbent's Attorney General cracks a joke. Is this serious Thriller or Carry On lark? Perhaps it's not that broad, but certainly Crowley doesn't seem committed to the gravity of his material. It's a problem that works both ways: a fairly key character dies off-screen later in the film, hardly garnering a mention from the director, despite the plot thread having significant weight at other parts of the narrative.

Perhaps the tension within the film is best summed up by Riz Ahmed, who never quite manages to be hero or villain, threatening or smooth. If anything, his character could perhaps be described as 'preppy', which, no matter how you play it, just is not something that is ever going to feel at home in a terrorist narrative. His boss as well, eventually revealed in scenes less clever than the film thinks they are, is not going to send our knees a quiver. Perhaps that's the point, but again Crowley doesn't make it clear in a film with a purposefully murky plot but substantially less beneficial murky direction.

Closed Circuit was playing on Sky.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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