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Saturday, 30 December 2017

REWIND REVIEW: Closed Circuit (2013)

(M) ★★

Director: John Crowley.

Cast: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Riz Ahmed, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent, Denis Moschitto.

"I won't say anything about your Hulk movie if you don't mention
me being Steppenwolf in Justice League."
Whenever I belatedly find an English-language movie I'd never heard of that boasts a great cast, I'm deeply suspicious. There's usually a reason the film hasn't crossed my radar of social media and movie website/magazine subscriptions. And that reason, nine times out of 10, is because the film isn't very good.

Case in point is Closed Circuit - a film packed with talented actors that's only four years old yet I'd never heard of until it popped up on the F Project Cinema screening schedule. How could I have missed this legal drama starring all these quality people?

As is the case 90% of the time, it's because Closed Circuit is not very good. At its worst, it's sad watching such great actors struggle with such tin-ear dialogue. At its best, it has an interesting-if-convoluted story badly delivered.

The film centres on lawyer Martin Rose (Bana), who is brought in to defend an alleged terrorist Farroukh Erdogan (Moschitto) following the sudden death of the barrister who was handling the case. Rose's job is complicated by the fact he'll be working opposite Special Advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall) - a woman who he had an affair with some years earlier.

All the while, Rose is trying to figure out if Farroukh was really behind a bombing at a crowded marketplace, or whether something even more sinister is going on.

So much doesn't work in Closed Circuit. The dialogue is periodically dire, particularly in the earliest scenes, as if the screenwriters were learning as they went. An early scene set during and after a funeral is a great example as it suggests the writers had never been to a funeral before or perhaps ever heard human beings interact.

It's a shame because the plot, despite its holes, is generally interesting. It's unfortunate that it hinges initially on some peculiarities of the English court system in regards to terrorism law, which are a bitch to explain. Ahmed and Broadbent spend most of the first half of the movie dropping in for some exposition; their characters seem solely created to help us understand what's going to happen, which is not ideal for an actor. It's to Ahmed and Broadbent's credit that they make these scenes and characters as interesting as possible in the circumstances. If you can grit your teeth through the first half, it gets better.

Similarly, Bana fares poorly initially but you grow used to him. After seemingly focusing more on his accent than the dialogue in the first half of the film, he becomes a solid if forgettable lead. Same goes for Hall. It's a shame their relationship is so botched - perhaps in the edit, perhaps in the script. Hall and Bana share chemistry on occasion, but they're fighting a losing battle trying to inject some spark into proceedings.

Despite it picking up pace in the second half, there's little to recommend about Closed Circuit. Somewhere in here is a good idea for a film, but the talented cast are left wandering around trying to find it.

I watched Closed Circuit at a screening hosted by F Project Cinema in Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia. Here's what's coming up at future FPC screenings at the Mozart Hall (all screenings are at 7.30pm):

The Princess Bride - January 10

Waltz With Bashir - January 24

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