A British legal thriller is a rare thing. On this side of the pond, courtrooms and lawyers run rampant to the point where they blur together, a familiarity that makes the London-set Closed Circuit all the more appealing. Conversely, the largely unexplored setting leads to a bit of confusion as it’s not quite clear whether lawyers/ex-lovers Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) are on joint or opposing sides in a high-profile terrorism case. Once that detail is sorted out, though, the mysteries of John Crowley’s excellent film have long since hooked viewers and are busy steering them on one of the year’s more satisfying works.
Making excellent use of surveillance footage, Closed Circuit reveals its pedigree early. Showing as many as 15 screens simultaneously, its opening is disorienting in a good way. Scanning the footage, one isn’t sure where to focus, which in turn inspires an uncertainty and growing tension that pays off with a major event. A four-screen version is employed to similarly great effect at various appropriate points, selling the certainty of someone watching Martin, Claudia, and the family of bombing suspect Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). This style is then later manipulated when one key frame blacks out just long enough for something significant to occur without evidence.
Though wonderful, these details are mere icing on what’s simply an advanced course in writing, directing, and acting. Bana is the best he’s been since Munich and has excellent chemistry with Hall, who tries her hardest to convince viewers that she wasn’t actually in Iron Man 3. Heartily supported by Jim Broadbent, Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles, and Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), there’s dramatic value in every scene and the more of these names in one frame, the merrier. Overseeing the taut script by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), Crowley and cinematographer Adriano Goldman (Jane Eyre; The Company You Keep) produce one of the year’s more cleanly shot stories, elevating a thriller to art film status.
The lone major drawback with Closed Circuit, however, is that it’s perhaps too clean. (Alas, not every film can be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy…) With no hint of grime and few interesting edits or camera movements, the imagery is a tad refined for the subject matter. Still, it’s tough to complain much about clarity in the age of handheld queasiness, especially when Closed Circuit has one solid jump that’s better than anything in You’re Next and is far more fitting of the title Paranoia than the work masquerading under that name. For all of the above and the unspoiled mysteries they inspire, those looking for more out of their late summer moviegoing need search no further.
Rated R for language and brief violence.
Closed Circuit is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.