Film Title: Closed Circuit
Director: John Crowley
Starring: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent
Running Time: 96 min
British film and television has – in the decades after The Parallax View and All the President’s Men – proved every bit as keen on conspiracy theories as have its US counterparts. In the 1980s, we saw Gabriel Byrne in Defence of the Realm. Both Edge of Darkness and State of Play were turned into fitfully successful films. It seems the British are quite at home to their own class of fish-and-chip paranoia.
Directed by Irishman John Crowley, who brought us Intermission, Closed Circuit is very much in the school of those predecessors. Sinister, well-educated operatives in expensive overcoats represent the government. The film overestimates the efficiency of the security apparatus by suggesting that everything you say and do may be subject to analysis by some spook or other.
It’s all very slick and oppressive. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really grab the attention. Steven Knight, writer of Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, has something important to say about the peculiar way the UK government handles sensitive terrorist cases, but he fails to finds a workable structure in which to say it.
Rebecca Hall (engaging) and Eric Bana (sleepy) play lawyers engaged to defend a young man accused of masterminding a bomb attack on central London. (By naming Hall’s character Ms Simmons-Howe, Knight looks to be nodding towards Rumpole of the Bailey and John Mortimer’s habit of saddling all his barristers with unwieldy double-barrels.)
It hardly needs to be said that the two glamorous attorneys were once lovers and can now barely look at one another without emitting steam. Nonetheless, they are soon poring over documents and reaching many uncomfortable conclusions.
If the film-makers tied the action to a more believable version of contemporary London, then Closed Circuit’s competing revelations would seem a great deal more worrying. As it stands, the gunmetal cinematography and sleek backgrounds plunge us so quickly into Conspiracy Central that we immediately assume the worst of every police officer, judge and cabinet minister. Somebody really needs to tweak this formula.