You dont really need to know much about the British legal system to get totally involved in the stories and the accompanying tension of Closed Circuit. You dont have to understand the difference between barristers and advocates (theyre both lawyers) or what it means when a judge (or whatever theyre called in England) orders a recess at a trial, then says to the barristers and advocates remaining in the courtroom, Wigs off!

Yet even if you did get how all of that stuff works, the busy plotting and side-plotting in this legal thriller centering on a terrorist trial would still likely generate some confusion. But it really doesnt matter. If things are a little hard to understand while theyre being woven together and then played out, everything makes sense in the end. And thats fine. The characters are involved in a big twisty mystery, so why shouldnt viewers also have a bit of trouble figuring out whats really going on?

Whats going on at the very start of Closed Circuit is plain and simple. Director John Crowley kicks it off in unnerving style, reminiscent of what Brian De Palma did so well in his 70s film, with multiple images flashing up across the screen, all of them shots from surveillance cameras, all focusing on bustling London streets, all building to a massive terrorist explosion.

Six months later, a trial has begun. Our hero (or is he an anti-hero?), Martin (Eric Bana) is a successful barrister who has just been brought in to defend Farroukh (Denis Moschitto), the man implicated in the bombing that killed 120 people. Its briefly remarked that Martin has taken over for another barrister who just committed suicide. Theres also the introduction of Claudia (Rebecca Hall), who will serve as Farroukhs special advocate, working alongside but not actually together with Martin.

Heres some of that Brit law business. Even though Martin and Claudia are on the same side of the case, due to the existence of some secret evidence, theyre not allowed to communicate with each other. But since theyre former lovers and arent exactly on speaking terms these days, thats no big deal. Yet the fact that there was an affair between them, and theyre not telling anyone, is enough to make their involvement in the case just this side of illegal. All of that, and the plot hasnt even begun to thicken. But it sure does.

This is a film about paranoia, about people wondering if theyre being watched, if theyre being followed, about national security and whether or not the government should be called the good guys or the bad guys. Martin and Claudia have plenty of murky business to deal with seriously, how does one even start to grasp the idea of secret evidence? when suddenly the Secret Service is involved (and theyre not very friendly), theres talk of an informant who might or might not talk, and we meet Joanna (Julia Stiles), an American journalist whos snooping around with questions about that first barristers supposed suicide.

Though it all starts with a horrifying explosion, its mostly a movie of words and worries, until it seamlessly and at first unnoticeably turns into a full-blown thriller. Points of view from public surveillance cameras keep popping up, making sure we know that people are, indeed, being watched, that out in the real world, you and I are being watched.

John Crowley gives us some terrific cinematic moments, such as when he juxtaposes scenes of Martin questioning Farroukh with scenes of Claudia, in some other location, questioning Farroukhs wife and son. Crowley attains a whole different feel when he shows us the thoughts of Martin and Claudia, silently thinking of each other, flashing back to when they were in happier times.

Its a film where complications not only ensue, they keep getting more complicated, before theyre resolved. It has a conclusion that initially feels tacked on, dealing with issues of justice and injustice, of fairness and morality, but then ends up feeling just right.

Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.


Written by Steven Knight; directed by John Crowley

With Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent, Ciaran Hinds

Rated R