Closed Circuit

Ever had a friend (or a comedian) tell you a joke with a great setup? One that gets you ready for a big payoff? And then… the punch line is not that funny?

Closed Circuit, though not a comedy, is a bit like that. The setup is tremendous but the payoff falls way short.

The film’s clever opening sequence presents an increasing number of security camera views of a busy London market. When the number of images onscreen hits fifteen, a terrorist bomb explodes. Coming just four months after the Boston Marathon bombing (in which suspects were identified from security footage) this film initially appears to be particularly timely.

When a suspect is brought in, Martin (Eric Bana) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall) are chosen to work as defense counsels. Actually, Claudia is a special advocate and Martin is a replacement defense attorney. At this point, the setup gets muddied with rules regarding the case. Supposedly, Claudia and Martin cannot share information with one another. Here comes another potentially interesting wrinkle: they are ex-lovers whose breakup was acrimonious.

Because of the complex rules regarding the case, which is being tried behind closed doors, and the fact that the government is sharing details with these two on a severely limited basis, they are forced to seek information on their own. But the British government is keeping an eye on them as they try to figure things out.

Despite all these contrivances, the potential for a strong finish still remains until the story seems to lose its mojo. Its resolution may be an accurate depiction of real life, but this is a fictional narrative that might’ve benefited from a different wrap up.

James Broadbent, who sometimes seems to be in every movie set in Britain, appears as the UK Attorney General. He usually plays a nice guy, but here his AG is a bit devious. Bana’s voice sounds amazingly, distractingly like Liam Neeson’s in many instances. Hall, a statuesque beauty, displays great mobility in high heels. (Or was it her double?)

Closed circuit video is used admirably in other parts of Closed Circuit after the great opening. Director John Crowley makes the point that our lives are being observed by others. That’s not news to most of us.

Closed Circuit coulda been a contender. Instead it gets a one-way ticket to Palookaville.