Closed Circuit (2013)


Furtive Looks 101 will be taught this term by Professor Eric Bana.

Furtive Looks 101 will be taught this term by Professor Eric Bana.

(2013) Thriller (Focus) Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciaran Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Jim Broadbent, Kenneth Cranham, Jemma Powell, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Julia Stiles, Anne-Marie Duff, Barbora Bobulova, Luing Andrews, Neil D’Souza, Doug Allen, James Lowe, John Humphreys, David Sibley, Angus Wright, Adam Tedder, Denis Moschitto, Pinar Ogun, Hasancan Cifci, Leila Wong. Directed by John Crowley

The task of a British barrister is to represent the interests of the client to the best of his or her ability. When that task is rendered impossible due to the interference of outside sources, what is a barrister to do?

London’s ancient Borough Market has been bombed and a Turkish national named Farroukh Erdogan (Moschitto) has been arrested for the crime. Martin Rose (Bana) has been appointed to defend him after his original barrister Simon Fellowes (Lowe) commits suicide. Because some of the evidence in the case is of a sensitive nature, a second barrister is appointed to handle that aspect of the case as a judge has been given the task of determining if the classified information can be used in open court or if it is too risky to allow the information to become public knowledge. That barrister is Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall) who at one time had an affair with Martin which ended up wrecking his marriage. Martin is still in the midst of an ugly custody fight stemming from that.

Both Martin and Claudia have no great desire to work together but as this is an extremely high-profile case that could do wonders for both their careers, they both agree to keep their past relationship past. The two of them are told that they may have no contact whatsoever for fear of the knowledge that Claudia has  been given be transmitted to Martin who might then use it in court anyway. Of course, you know THAT’S not going to last long.

It becomes clear pretty quickly that both of them are under surveillance and that Sinister Forces are at work. Sinister Forces of course are at work because there are Dark Secrets that the Government doesn’t want to get out. In movies like this, these sorts of terms are always capitalized. Soon the two discover independently of each other that they are both in danger as is the family of the accused and that the secrets that aren’t connected to the information that Claudia has been given are far more serious and far-reaching in consequence than they could have imagined.

The British are normally exceedingly good at these sorts of thrillers – look to John Le Carre if you don’t believe me. There is a good deal of moral ambiguity and a dearth of action. Those are the sorts of things that are poison to the general American market who tend to prefer their heroes to act first and think after.

Bana is usually an actor whose films I look forward to seeing but here his character is cold and emotionally shut off. There’s an upper class arrogance to him that makes him unpleasant – not to mention the knowledge that he cheated on his wife, even if she’s been bitchy to him since he’s clearly earned it. Hall’s character Claudia has a bit of a stick up her bottom, and it never becomes clear to me what attracted these two characters to one another in the first place although it must be said sex often does strange things to people.

The opening sequence is quite marvelous – we are shown footage from closed circuit cameras, one morphing into two, then four, then eight. We get a variety of views of people going about their day and we know something awful is about to occur. We are briefly shown where that is going to happen (a truck parked in a place where it shouldn’t be) and then there is a flash and smoke and then nothing. It’s very effective and gets ones hopes sky-high.

Sadly, they don’t use the conceit again and most of the rest of the film is shot in standard style. It’s the one place where Crowley goes outside the box and it works beautifully. One gets the sense that Crowley – whose directing experience is mostly in the theater – didn’t have the confidence to continue that kind of thinking. I hope he acquires it because that sequence shows a great deal of confidence as a director.

The story relies a good deal on the minutiae of English law. I’m obviously unfamiliar with British law but two separate barristers to handle different aspects of the case? Why would that be necessary? Why not just submit the sensitive material directly to the judge and let him/her rule on whether or not it was admissible in open court?

Hinds, a reliable actor, gets a cup of coffee as Martin’s assistant and Stiles is incongruous as an American journalist whose sole function is to be used to force Martin into realizing that there’s an Evil Conspiracy afoot. You know, the Sinister Forces I alluded to earlier. I also thought Bobulova was fine as a government functionary who’s not what she seems and Broadbent jovial as the British Attorney General whose threats are veiled within friendly banter.

I have to say that the movie isn’t bad, it’s just okay – but JUST okay. It didn’t really possess enough substance to engage me much beyond the closing credits but there was enough there to be maddening that a better film couldn’t have been made.

REASONS TO GO: Excellent opening sequence. Urbane.

REASONS TO STAY: Predictable. Lots of plot holes. Love affair is unrealistic.

FAMILY VALUES:  The language is a bit salty in places and there’s some violence as well.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Borough Market, setting of the first scenes in the movie, also has played host to such films as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/31/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 44% positive reviews. Metacritic: 54/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Runaway Jury

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Truly, Madly, Deeply

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New Releases for the Week of August 30, 2013


Getaway

GETAWAY

(Warner Brothers) Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight, Rebecca Budig, Paul Freeman, Bruce Payne, Ivailo Geraskov. Directed by Courtney Solomon

When the wife of a former race car driver is kidnapped, her husband is forced to commandeer a customized sports car, taking the owner on a high octane race against time. Forced to follow the instructions of a faceless voice, knowing his every move is being watched, he must whip up a plan to defeat the nameless criminal calling the shots, knowing that his wife’s life as well as the two lives in the car are forfeit if he can’t.

See the trailer, clips, promos and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Action

Rating: PG-13 (for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures and language)

Closed Circuit

(Focus) Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciaran Hinds, Julia Stiles. Two former lovers, now estranged, are reluctantly forced to work together as the defense team of an accused terrorist. However, it seems that their every move is being watched and it becomes clear that events are being manipulated. The closer they look, the more danger they’re in.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Wednesday)

Genre: Thriller

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexuality, violence and language) 

The Grandmaster

(Weinstein) Ziyi Zhang, Tony Leung, Zhang Yongcheng, Cung Le. Visionary Chinese director Wong Kar Wai weighs in with this tale of Ip Man, the legendary Chinese martial arts master who is best known in the West as Bruce Lee’s teacher. During the chaos that followed the fall of China’s last imperial dynasty, he would rise as the best of the best during the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Not to be confused with the Ip Man trilogy which also was loosely based on the same historical figure.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Martial Arts

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language)

Instructions Not Included

(Pantelion) Eugenio Derbez, Jessica Lindsey, Loreto Peralta, Daniel Raymont. A ladies man in Acapulco finds a baby girl on his doorstep. He decides to raise her himself after unsuccessfully searching for the mother in Los Angeles and manages to carve out a decent life for the two of them and a successful career as a Hollywood stunt ma. Complications ensue six years later when the birth mother resurfaces and wants her daughter back.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, thematic elements and language)

One Direction: This is Us

(TriStar) Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles. Documentary filmmaker shocks his fans by doing a movie about the teen heartthrobs du jour. At least all the pre-teen tween girls will be giggling and texting in a different theater than the rest of us while this is out.

See the trailer, clips and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (opens Thursday)

Genre: Musical Documentary

Rating: PG (for mild language)

Satyagraha

(UTV) Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Arjun Rampal. A young man rising in the corporate ranks sees his hopes dashed when a personal tragedy exposes him to the corruption in the system. Moved to take action, he allies with an idealistic older man and ignites a revolution that soon spirals far out of control.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

The Spectacular Now

(A24) Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler . A popular BMOC in high school, the guy all the girls want to be with falls for the good girl. What begins as an unlikely romance blossoms into something deeper and more complicated than either one ever expected.

See the trailer, a clip and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Coming of Age Drama

Rating: R (for alcohol use, language and some sexuality – all involving teens)