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Movie Review: "Closed Circuit"

Focus Features(NEW YORK) -- Closed Circuit opens with a compelling scene: split-screen feeds from security cameras positioned around a British market.  We see a man on a cell phone telling his significant other that he loves her; we see a mother and her adult daughter walking arm-in-arm, chatting; there's a mother pushing her baby in a stroller.  In other words, people going about their endearing daily routines, a scene designed to make us feel something for all of these people just before they die in a terrorist explosion.
It's a scene so clearly designed to engender audience rage, it’s almost the cinematic equivalent of a children’s pop-up book.  Despite the hand-holding from the filmmakers, it's still a well-constructed moment and looks great. Let’s see where this goes.
Enter Eric Bana as Martin Rose, a defense barrister appointed to represent Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), the surviving member of the cell accused of carrying out the market attack, which killed over 100 people.  Rose is appointed only after Erdogan’s attorney commits suicide.  He's joined by Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Rebecca Hall, the special advocate appointed by the attorney general, played by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent.  There's a problem, however: Martin and Claudia are former lovers, which is, according to British law as presented in this movie, a conflict of interest.  Even so, when the judge asks them, “Do you know any reason that would prejudice your ability to carry out this case?”, they answer, “No, my lord.”
The government is keeping the evidence against Erdogan classified, claiming it's because of the high-profile nature of the case.  While preparing for the closed-court session during which Claudia will get to argue for the full disclosure of that evidence, Martin discovers a conspiracy, and then…the movie really starts to spiral out of control.
Director John Crowley should apologize to his cast, especially the underrated Bana and Hall, for mismanaging this story.  What could have been an exciting international thriller is instead a head-shaking, poorly-executed bomb.  Even the title Closed Circuit is misleading.  While it appears that Crowley and company were trying to say something about privacy in today’s post-9/11 environment, closed-circuit video feeds and invasion of privacy issues have very little to do with this film.  Maybe an earlier draft of the script did a better job of conveying that message, but Closed Circuit as presented feels very much like an unfocused bait-and-switch.
One-and-a-half out of five stars.

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