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Rated 2.99 stars
by 280 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
by Frank Wilkins

Despite trailers and a title that elude to a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller set in one of the world’s most CCTV-saturated countries in the world, Closed Circuit oddly has very little to do with closed circuit cameras or even secret surveillance. Then again, though more accurate, calling it Courtroom Yawner just wouldn’t have the same zing.

But ho-hum is exactly what we get from John Crowley’s courtroom “thriller” set in London where at any given moment, someone will be watching you on any of the country’s half million closed-circuit cameras. It is certainly a fascinating setup as the film opens with a bank of TV monitors keyed in on scenes of everyday life in the big city. Businessmen talk on their cell phones, moms push strollers, and cops direct traffic through the busy streets. Then we see the image of a nondescript delivery truck appear on various monitors as it backs its way into the city’s main artery. As the police approach to shoo the truck on, the screens go white when the truck explodes into a ball of fire and rubble. A dusty column of obliterated concrete and debris rises above the city in a scene reminiscent of 9/11 in New York City.

It’s certainly a thrilling beginning, and we hope the remainder continues to leverage the fascinating setup into some sort of big-brother-is-watching paranoiac thriller like The Parallax View or The Conversation from days of old. But instead, the film goes limp as it gets lost in its own benign web of misdirection, bland drama, and familiar plot paths.

In the manhunt that follows the gruesome act of terrorism, police quickly arrest Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), the mastermind behind the crime, and prepare for what promises to be the trial of the century. But the case becomes clouded when it is decided that the government will use classified evidence to prosecute Erdogan. Evidence so secret that neither he nor his attorneys can be allowed to see. The government taps Martin Rose (Eric Bana) as his defense lawyer after their original choice died under mysterious circumstances. Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is appointed as Erdogan’s “Special Advocate” who will evaluate the secret evidence behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, Claudia can’t share the undisclosed information with Martin due to a “security of the state” proclamation and the rules of defense expressly prohibit anyone with a previous relationship from teaming up, so the two must lie about their past and soon find themselves swept up in a massively complicated plot of deception, conspiracy, and government cover up. As Martin and Claudia attempt to navigate an increasingly tangled network of legal wrangling complicated by their own personal foibles, we are unwittingly dragged into a tedious exercise in British legal procedure. Save for the film’s third act which devolves into a strangely out-of-place car chase and action sequence, it’s all just plain boring.

We see where this thing is going early on, and we understand that screenwriter Steven Knight is trying to make some sort of “you can’t handle the truth” declaration that involves shadowy secret service and MI5 agents who mask their tactics behind a “good for the nation” argument. And we get that the film’s title might also be a clever reference to the shady closed sessions in the story’s trial.  But Knight simply doesn’t go deep enough. We’re living this stuff right now, and sadly, it takes bigger-than-life scenarios to make a statement. As it is, Closed Circuit feels more like dull-as-dishwater window dressing to our fears and anxieties heightened by a world constantly struggling with the liberty vs. public safety dilemma.

Now, if you really want to put a bug in our britches, scare us with those cameras. Show us how lawless 24-hour surveillance is more frightening than bombs. That’s the movie we came to see.

(Released by Focus Features and rated “R” for language and brief violence.)

Review also posted at

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