By Steve Persall
Times Movie Critic
Closed Circuit is about lawyers in London, so they wear wigs in court, and in love denial, which could cost them a sensational case.
They're not allowed to communicate while defending a truck bomb terrorist. She's a special advocate who'll gain access to classified evidence the other lawyer is prohibited from seeing. Both know they're under surveillance. Being seen together would end the case and their careers. And the movie, if logic matters.
It doesn't, and Closed Circuit trudges along with these imprudent lawyers following leads in a deepening conspiracy, easily sniffed out by casting and which characters seem to be most helpful. Closed Circuit is a shaggy paranoid thriller in which conversations aren't the shorthand of people who know each other but wordy exposition for those strangers in theater seats.
Nondescriptly handsome Eric Bana plays Martin Rose, the court-appointed defense lawyer kept in the dark about evidence against his client, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). Rebecca Hall plays Martin's once and future lover Claudia Simmons-Howe, sans the charm of her work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or her gumption in The Town. Keeping their characters reasonably credible under the strain of Steven Knight's screenplay is a credit to both.
Director John Crowley does little to jazz up the proceedings, which are simply the same old CIA implications of American cinema transported to MI5 across the pond. The movie teases promising notions about privacy and the proliferation of surveillance cameras in public places, but little emerges beyond a few split-screen montages. Closed Circuit drops conspiracy theory bait and gets some nibbles of interest, yet never reels you in.
In obvious deference to the U.S. market, Knight's script adds a Yank to the mix, but not for long. Julia Stiles plays New York Times investigative reporter Joanna Reece, whose presence and introduction to Martin at a dinner party says a lot, mostly uncomplimentary, about her professional instinct. Then again, nobody in this movie except the bomber performs his duties as real people do.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.