Movie review: “Closed Circuit” scratches political thriller itch

By Columbus Alive
From the August 29, 2013 edition

It’s been more than a decade since 9/11, although some will still cry “too soon” for a movie that deals a little too realistically with terrorism.

“Closed Circuit” is a thriller with a terrorism plot, although it’s less politically charged than, say, “Zero Dark Thirty” because of its UK setting. It is still more politically charged than, say, “One Direction: This Is Us.”

Even more timely, perhaps, is that “Closed Circuit” is a movie that treats the perpetual surveillance of the public as a simple fact of life. It opens on a collage of people viewed through cameras in a London marketplace. The images vanish in a cloud of smoke at the detonation of a truck bomb.

Flash forward six months. A lone surviving suspect is in custody. Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is the defense attorney assigned to the high-profile case. Due to the nature of the sensitive evidence, a portion of the testimony will take place in closed session.

Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is assigned as special advocate for the defendan in that closed session, but she’s forbidden from contact with Martin. Which is kind of a problem, since they are secretly ex-lovers.

“Closed Circuit” is a workmanlike effort, well-constructed if not particularly groundbreaking. And sometimes that makes for a fine time at the movies.

It’s decidedly grown-up and generally quite smart (although some plot elements are best not pondered on too much, lest the holes start to emerge). It plays like John le Carré Lite, which isn’t entirely a bad thing.

The plots churning reveals of a deepening conspiracy — but one rooted in a healthy, realistic portrait of government incompetence — keep things moving at a brisk pace. Director John Crowley keeps the whole affair tidily close to an hour and a half.

This may serve the film, as the leads, while talented, don’t have much going in the onscreen chemistry department.

There are abundant flaws, but this also feels like a cracking good Sunday afternoon matinee. Just don’t expect it to spawn too much of a political discussion.