Boy A director John Crowley’s new British thriller starts by meaning business with the shocking but understated power of CCTV in its opening scenes that prompt us that we’re all under surveillance. Indeed, the UK is one of the most ‘watched’ lands, but how much good does it do us? This is one of two points Closed Circuit aims to explore, along with the usual government conspiracy theory and cover-ups.
Crowley’s classy-looking thriller feels more small-screen than big though, even with it’s A List cast of Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as a couple of on-the-run lawyers, Martin Rose and Claudia Simmons-Howe. It’s like TV’s Spooks – but with the legal professional uncovering the clues, only probably more realistic in representing the less-than-perfect Secret Service in action. It does hold the attention well enough, even if it treads the same path as other legal thrillers, plus it deals with very current and topical issues.
Rose (Bana) is asked to take over a high-profiled London terrorism case, after the former lawyer is found dead. This sees him defending the main suspect in court with former lover, Simmons-Howe (Hall), a younger barrister with family connections and a glittering career ahead of her. However, Rose begins uncovering more than he bargains for, and he begins trending on some powerful but ambiguous toes – as warned by the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent). This puts him and Simmons-Howe on a dangerous course.
The plot promises a blood-pumping ride, sort of British Bourne set in Soho’s alleyways. Though Closed Circuit captures the imagination and does a decent job of keeping things relatively tense, there’s a little too much English stiff upper lip in emotional impact. Indeed, the lawyers are supposed to be former lovers, but there is little to suggest their affair was anything but mediocre, as the professional barriers never crack enough to show a burning passion on the back boiler.
Bana and Hall deliver as directed, and are sassy poker players with their thoughts most of the time and the game they have been invited to play. It’s Broadbent in one of his more chilling roles to date that steals the scenes as the complex legal character that we are never quite sure is merely advising and/or threatening.
There are some plot oversights, such as why does the network of powerful foes never work out where to find rowing fanatic Rose and the prime witness he is protecting until his time in court the next morning, by hiding him in his boathouse? Perhaps there is no CCTV on the banks of the Thames…
Crowley’s Closed Circuit is a handsome-looking thriller that picks up a steady pace, but feels emotionally stunted, in terms of the protagonists’ history. The bombshell in court feels more like a damp, old firecracker as we have been party to, too much information to make it astounding. Still, it’s all an interesting premise that feels tired in execution and full of standard clichés, even though Bana and Hall make an attractive team to watch.