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Closed Circuit (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 96 minutes.

OK for children.

After a terrorist bomb decimates a London Market, the suspect Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), is put on trial, bringing together former lovers, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe, (Golden Globe Award nominee Rebecca Hall), as the defense team. The problem is that since national security is involved, Simmons-Howe is a “Special Advocate” appointed by the Attorney General, played by Jim Broadbent, who is allowed to see classified evidence that will not be allowed in open court. So the trial is a dual phase thing, part in open court, when Rose will be the lead defense counsel, and the other part in closed session in which Simmons-Howe is the only defense attorney allowed. Worse, they are not allowed to communicate with one another.

I go through all this detail because if you see the film it can get a little confusing. This is a suspense tale with unknown evil people trying to get Simmons-Howe and Rose. They must navigate through lots of plots and counter-plots to determine what’s really going on. Frankly, though, it seems like a roman á clef for Obama’s Fast and Furious scandal.

John Crowley directs with a keen eye towards keeping the tension mounting, aided by wonderful music (Joby Talbot). I continue to believe that music is the number one most important aspect in making a thriller thrilling.

Bana and Hall give fine performances. Although Hall was overshadowed by A-list stars Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem, she was the best thing in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and she also shone in Ben Affleck’s The Town. Here she finally gets a primary starring role and she’s worthy of it.

But the supporting actors also give fine performances. Julia Stiles is quite good as an investigating journalist in a role much too small for her talent. Ann Marie-Duff, who gave such a compelling performance as John Lennon’s mother,  Julia (for whom The Beatles song, Julia, in The White Album was written), in the moving Nowhere Man (2009), shines again as Melissa, a government worker who is not what she appears to be.

There’s a lot here that does not meet the eye, so if you can keep up with the arcane British legal process (which is why I explained it at the beginning), it’s an entertaining thriller highlighted by fine acting.