Closed Circuit, billed as a "conspiracy thriller," gets off to a fast start as a bomb suddenly explodes at London's Borough Market (shown through a simultaneous view of 15 security cameras), killing 120 people and becoming "the biggest murder case in British history." Suspected ringleader of the bombing, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), is soon arrested and Simon Fellowes (James Lowe, who only appears for a few seconds during news footage) is appointed as his defense barrister by an Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) who is never named in the movie. Because much of the evidence against him is considered classified and can only be discussed in closed hearings, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is assigned as Erdogan's "special advocate" during those hearings, with a standing rule that the defense barrister and special advocate are not allowed to be in contact with each other during the trial.
Simon soon commits suicide however, and Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is called in to take his place. The only problem is that Simon once had an affair with Claudia so it isn't very ethical for both of them to be assigned to the same case, but after discussing it in private they both agree to pretend that they don't know each other, lying about it under oath. Martin goes through a roomful of material left by Simon while Claudia meets with the defendant who is a bit hostile towards her. Martin runs into New York Times journalist Joanna Reece (Julia Stiles), who had been dogging Simon for information unsuccessfully as those involved with the case are not allowed to talk to the press. Though Martin reminds Joanna of this and that she'll get no information out of him, she intrigues him by asking "Are you sure Simon Fellowes' death was a suicide?"
Both Martin and Claudia start to get paranoid from here, as Martin soon notices that the same taxi cab has been picking him up most of the time. Through research and talking with Joanna, he suspects that MI5, the British Security Service, had ties to the bombing and are now trying to silence those who know about it, with his former colleague being a casualty of that. To say much more would spoil the movie, but while this seems like an intriguing story Closed Circuit executes it rather poorly. While some dialogue suggests that the bombing was a huge tragedy and the resulting trial is being called "the trial of the century" by the press, you really don't get a sense of that just through viewing the movie and as a fictional event I just really didn't care too much about it, the 120 persons killed or the rest of the characters. Common sense suggests that either Martin or Claudia would have bowed out of the case early on since they knew each other, but of course that would have made the story less interesting, and there is some dialogue that suggests Martin was brought in precisely because he is the sort of person who would tell such a lie rather than withdraw his involvement.
A scene in particular that made me cringe, which I've seen done before, is when Martin questions suspect Farroukh while at the same time Claudia visits and questions his wife and son. The film cuts back and forth between the two events, and many of the same questions are asked at the same time- Martin asks Farroukh why he had previously gone to Berlin and then returned to London, and then the movie cuts to Farrokh's son interpreting to Claudia his mother's answer about their return to London. While most of the performances are OK, I had to laugh when Jim Broadbent's attorney general confronts Martin and says "If we accept that, then we have to accept all sorts of things which are simply unacceptable, and I will not accept that," and Martin replies "You really know how to clarify a situation, don't you?" As the movie was already putting me to sleep by that point, I had to verify in a later viewing that was the actual dialogue. Those who have difficulty staying awake through movies will likely find this one a challenge, and those who care to make sense out of it may require multiple viewings to do so, as I did. Julia Stiles pulls off a performance similar to those in the Bourne movies, but doesn't get a lot of time here, and I won't spoil what becomes of her but the way it's handled is sure to elicit laughs or groans from the audience. While Closed Circuit tries to keep things tense, and the music score by Joby Talbot certainly helps along with the style of photography, in the end it just seems like many pieces of the movie are missing.
Shot on good old 35mm film in a 2.35 ratio, detail is excellent. Colors are muted intentionally with a blue tint throughout. As Universal has been using dual-layer discs for most of its Blu-Rays, I did not see any banding or compression artifacts.
As has been the trend with many recent releases, a standard DVD (coded for region 1 only, though the Blu-Ray is all-region) is also included which doesn't look nearly as good as the Blu-Ray. Parts I checked seemed almost out of focus in comparison.
While this is primarily a "dialogue movie", the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix (5.1 standard Dolby Digital on the DVD) is put to good use in some moments, with the opening explosion shaking the room (though of course that's supposed to be a tragic moment that isn't meant to be enjoyed) and ambient sounds in the surrounds during outdoor scenes. Americans may find the mostly British accents and dialect difficult to understand, but the hearing-impaired subtitles help with that a bit- I watched the movie a second time with them on which clarified many lines I didn't pick up the first time around. As Universal usually does, these are positioned across the screen similar to standard closed-captions, and their "Uhear" feature lets you hit the yellow button during the movie and re-play the last few seconds with subtitles on and then turned off again. A Spanish dubbed 5.1 track is also included on both discs along with Spanish and French subtitles.
The only movie-related extra is a 3-minute "filler material" piece with the cast and crew reflecting on the movie with a bit of production footage. If you have BD-Live enabled, the Blu-Ray disc will open with four random trailers taken from Universal's online source in marginal quality (but they can be skipped). If it's disabled or not connected, you instead get a Focus Features promo, a trailer for Dallas Buyer's Club, short promo spots for Rush and Riddick and a promo for "The Hollow Crown" series, all in high definition with 5.1 sound. (These are also on the standard DVD in 2-channel sound.)
Closed Circuit had potential to be an exciting movie, but its execution renders it a bore for the most part. It's still made and performed competently enough to be worth at least checking out once however. Incidentally, the Borough Market which is bombed here is a real market in London- I wonder what the locals' reaction to this movie was?
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.