Movie Reviews

‘Closed Circuit’: Plodding mediocrity

By Wang DexianMovies - 20 November 2013 12:00 AM

‘Closed Circuit’: Plodding mediocrity

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Rating: 2 / 5

‘Closed Circuit’ is a British-American crime thriller that features some fine talent both on screen and off it. 

Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciaran Hinds and Julia Stiles are just some of the actors involved, while John Crowley directs. Steven Knight, who captured some of London's seedier sides in the movies ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ and ‘Eastern Promises’, penned the script.

So on paper, ‘Closed Circuit” sounds like a project with pedigree. 

The story centres around an explosive terror attack on London's famous Borough Market. The response is swift, and a suspect is arrested. Hearings are quickly called, but due to the classified nature of the case, there will be a closed trial with a Special Advocate for the defendant to help access the classified evidence and push for its use.

Lawyers Martin (Bana) and Claudia (Hall) are respectively assigned to be the Defence Barrister for the open trial and Special Advocate for the closed trial. 

Of course, things are never as simple as they should be.

The two lawyers are to have no contact with one another, something that is further complicated by the two having an affair prior to this.

Claudia is monitored by MI-5 intelligence agent Nazrul (Riz Ahmed), while Martin is taking over the case from the previous barrister Simon Fellowes who committed suicide.


A slow-burn of a thriller, ‘Closed Circuit’ is personified by the stillness and moody grey imagery that permeates London throughout the show. Multiple surveillance camera shots are used to paint a picture of a faceless enemy, taking note of every move the characters make. 

Further complemented by a gentle score that surges appropriately at the right moments, it is enough to make you start doubting every police officer, judge, official and even passers-by in the film. 

However, the lack of a strong villain is not exactly a good thing here.

Part of the fun of watching a legal and espionage thriller is to listen closely to the conversations, picking up the details, and then joining up the pieces to solve the case by yourself or together with the characters. 

Yet, this does not happen often because the film does not leave much room for it.

Many of the events that happen are so unlikely to ever occur that it hampers any believability. For example, a teen escaping a safehouse guarded by the MI-5? The ineptitude on display is on par with that of the bumbling scientists in the movie ‘Prometheus’. 


The only real saving grace is the cast. 

Bana and Hall both have the necessary gravitas to pull off the roles of experienced lawyers. Even then, they lack of the chance to form or display any chemistry until it is too late in the film.

It’s a real pity that ‘Closed Circuit’ fails to work out. The movie is definitely timely, given the recent spate of alleged spy “dramas” that have dominated headlines around the world, from Snowden to the alleged spying on Germany by the US National Security Agency.

Perhaps, a perspective from other parties apart from the lawyers would have made the film more engaging, to make a persuasive case for the methods of secret services.

The show limps to the finish with a rather weak ending. It seems to want to remain ambiguous to be a thought-provoking piece, but the feeling most in the audience will get will be a lack of suspense or high stakes.

All we know for sure is that there is too much wasted potential with this film. 

‘Closed Circuit’ opens in cinemas 21 November 2013