The crime thriller is a genre that’s been conspicuously absent in large part from theaters this year, so when a new crime thriller, not to mention a British crime thriller hits screens, I get excited. As is the case sometimes with foreign films, not a lot of press reaches other counties prior to their respective release dates, so I had the added benefit of going into Closed Circuit blind, so to speak. I emerged with some seriously mixed feelings as well as a feeling of disappointment, as I felt that the film had potential to be so much more.
Directed by John Crowley of Intermission fame and written by Steven Knight, also responsible for Eastern Promises, Closed Circuit, though not without its problems, which I’ll get to in a moment, has some aesthetically impressive direction with lots of visually balanced shots, which, at the very least, makes for a movie that’s fun to watch, if a little more difficult to comprehend. As far as the story is concerned, I admit that Closed Circuit has the bones of a hugely successful movie, but doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to pulling off that all important intrigue and suspense.
Starring Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, and Ciarán Hinds, Closed Circuit focuses on the struggle of two lawyers (Bana and Hall) as they attempt to defend a man accused of terrorism by the state. Acting is pretty impressive all around here, and one can’t help but smile at the tight, cohesive, and more importantly believable chemistry between the two leads. Hinds, impressive as always, likewise uses his on screen presence to great effect as the seemingly benevolent lawyer, Devlin.
Closed Circuit is interesting is an interesting movie in that it’s essentially about bureaucracy in a manner reminiscent of Catch-22 in some ways. As the two leads attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the terrorism allegation, they find themselves in more and more danger as they draw closer to the truth. Without wishing to spoil too much, the pair eventually discover a nebulous, faceless, and indefatigable force behind it all. One of the most surprising things, however, was that the aforementioned nebulous force actually wins. The bad guys come out on top- in a more realistic though nonetheless unexpected turn of events, and the individual players in the story are essentially exposed for the pawns that they really are.
Fatally, however, the film has some serious pacing problems which cripple the delivery of that interesting story I was talking about a moment ago. All the in-depth legal intrigue is crammed into an hour and a half movie, and while a certainly appreciate the film not dragging things out, I think in this case that the story would have been better served with a slower, more deliberate pace which would have allowed the mystery to brew in the minds of the audience as opposed to presenting the audience with a puzzle and immediately solving it for them. Closed Circuit strikes me as a film that doesn’t have much time for the whole “film” aspect of it’s medium, and by that I mean that it was just so thrilled to be telling its story (a pretty good story, though) that it felt like I was listening to a friend breathlessly describe something amazing that happened to them rather then sitting in a theater, watching a movie.
I stand by my previous declaration of disappointment that I expressed at the beginning of my review. There was so much to like here, including some interesting characters, premise, and visual style, but unfortunately I was rushed through it all like it was five minutes to closing time at the Smithsonian and I was forced to sprint from exhibit to exhibit trying desperately to get my money’s worth. Glimpses of greatness still shine through here and there, and for that reason I’m tempted to rate Closed Circuit higher than it actually deserves. The pacing broke the experience for me, but I can easily see how others might enjoy it more. And so my advice is this: see it if you feel so inclined, and decide for yourself.
Rating: 3 out of 5