The problem with political thrillers these days is there’s not much differentiation between stories anymore. Crooked lawmen, the one character with a heart of gold trying to do the right thing, sleazy government officials, blackmail, backstabbing – without vibrant creative differences, these types of films tend to blur together. Closed Circuit is unfortunately another middling affair featuring more of the same genre tricks and norms, albeit set in jolly old England. Sure, instead of the US government we know and love, we’re treated to some Parliamentary deviousness, but the change in location doesn’t do much to raise excitement. It’s a shame really, because with a cast this good, it’s sad to see their film become so sadly monotonous.
Martin (Eric Bana) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall) are preparing to defend an international terrorist who has recently bombed a highly populated market, but are finding their situation increasingly hard because of a previous affair they’d had. Martin, now divorced, becomes frustrated with Claudia’s refusal to leave the case, but they also can’t let the secret slip because it could cost them their jobs. While this may seem like enough of a sticky situation already, matters only become worse when corruption, deceit, and blatant cover-ups become obvious, and our lawyers become targets themselves. While struggling to fight the one system they thought stood for justice, our ex-lovers have to not only beat the system, but they have to stay alive as well. You can’t spread the truth if you’re six feet under, correct?
But it’s not so much that Closed Circuit did anything wrong, it just didn’t do anything special. I had the same problem with Welcome To The Punch this year as well. It’s not that the James McAvoy action-flick did anything horridly abysmal, but it just came across as a bland, cliche ridden action thriller with no deviation from typical genre norms. Closed Circuit plays out in the exact same manner, navigating from Point A to Point B without ever veering off the beaten path. Two lawyers that shouldn’t work together because they’ve had an affair? Eh, seen it. Treachery and backstabbing? Easy to predict. Random messages about doing things in the name of justice? Yawn. Characters escaping scenarios like they have secret service training? C’mon, did you even try?
It’s not to say our characters are unlikable either, because I’ve always been a fan of both Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall. Plus, Jim Broadbent just makes movies better – it’s a fact. The dynamic between Bana and Hall is never gripping or unforgettable, but holds enough weight to keep us watching their dangerous case. Bana can assuredly play a smarty pants who is always three steps ahead of everyone else, and Hall embodies the powerful independent woman mentality that her character loves to tout. But again, with material that never stimulates audiences, these performances are lost in a sea of boredom.
On a side note, I always love when typical people become badasses. For example, when Rebecca Hall’s character displays her knowledge of the dirty dealings going on, someone sends a hitman to her house in an attempt to “keep her quiet.” Now, I don’t know about you, but if a big, burly secret agent showed up at my house and put me in a choke hold from behind, I highly doubt I’m escaping – and I highly doubt he’d even let me escape. There’s no way he wouldn’t put some crazy take down on me, get me on the ground, and “put me to sleep” right there. Instead, Hall is left standing upright, and summons enough strength to grab the closest weapon she can find and bash the much larger man with it, causing him to release her. Rebecca Hall, an uptight lawyer type, defeats a man no doubt trained in physical punishment. What, did this guy miss Henchman 101 or something?
It’s moments like the one above that make Closed Circuit nothing but your average, run-of-the-mill political thriller. There’s some mystery, questions to be answered, and shady characters, but none of them are particularly interesting or groundbreaking. Not even a trip across the pond could save John Crowley’s film from a state of mundane facelessness, as Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall struggle just to keep our attention. If you are a die hard fan of the genre, I assume you’ll get some pleasure out of seeing more of the same, but for those who like a film that attempts to shake the mold a bit, I highly suggest looking elsewhere for a piece of cinema that tries a bit harder to create something memorable.
Closed Circuit does nothing to separate itself from the numerous other genre titles that are released every year, depicting the same political thriller norms we've seen used time and time again.