Closed Circuit begins with an explosion and ends with a political debate. By the time its short 96-minute running time elapses, viewers will inevitably wonder why the story works as poorly as it does.
Here we have two strong actors and a compelling idea that are bogged down by a superficial narrative that holds the concept explored in the story back from reaching their full potential.
The story starts in London where cameras are capturing a variety of individuals in one location going about their normal day. That is, until a bomb kills many of them and leaves the British public longing to hold someone accountable for this act of terrorism. Only one of the terrorist survives and that terrorist–named Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto)– is eventually put on trial for his role in the attack.
One of the greatest ideas that the filmmakers explore here is the British justice system. Because the trial of the potential terrorist involves issues pertaining to national security, there are two lawyers who will be defending him. One named Martin Rose (Eric Bana) will defend the suspect in a public trial, that will be heavily scrutinized by the media. Another named Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Howe) will defend the client in a confidential trial, where even the suspect isn’t completely apprised of the situation. Claudia will have access to secret files that the government wants to protect but she cannot make them public and she can’t share them with Martin.
In fact, the two of them aren’t supposed to have contact during the entire proceeding of the two trials. That’s a problem though because Martin and Claudia were formerly in a relationship together– one they hid from the judge who interviewed them about conflicts in the case.
The concepts and ideas explored here are timely and quite compelling. Is this– a public case and a private hearing about the same case–really the best way to try a suspected terrorist and is justice being done when even the client isn’t made aware of the evidence against him?
But the narrative is bogged down by inherently superficial relationships. The relationship between Martin and Claudia is so underdeveloped that it’s hard to believe that they were ever a couple. Additionally, Martin’s relationship with a New York Times reporter named Joanna Reese (Julia Stiles) feels like something that was tacked on for added effect. There’s no reason for her to appear in the story in such a limited fashion.
At times, you want the story to live up to its full potential. There’s a grand suspenseful concept here that could have been made more dramatic and thought-provoking if the screenwriters would have taken the time to develop the narrative more. Screenwriter Steven Knight, who previously wrote Eastern Promises, takes the easier road here in presenting an interesting set of circumstances– a complex terrorist trial, national security secrets and a cover-up– and presenting them without any interesting characters in it.
Seeking justice– especially in these times– for suspected terrorists is an intriguing concept to build a film on. The complexity of balancing national security priorities with the presentation of a fair trial is one that could be provocative and thoughtful. It could help start a dialogue about bringing terrorists to justice in a way that gives them and the public the opportunity to see the real story behind these acts.
In Closed Circuit though, all we have is a contrite and forgettable look at some ideas without the substance that would bring this story to cinematic life. An unfortunate missed opportunity, indeed.