closed_circuitThey say that London has more closed circuit TV surveillance per head of population than any other city on the face of the earth, more than 20 times that of Paris. They also say that in London, you’re caught on camera around 300 times a day. For all that, though, if you were to sit in front of a bank of CCTV monitors, you would be forgiven for being overwhelmed by this information, excited perhaps. However, after a few minutes of watching Cockneys going about their average day of eating jellied eels and not squealing on their own, no doubt it would become exceptionally tedious and boring and you’d start to wonder why you’d bothered watching it in the first place.

Closed Circuit, then, is a case of art imitating life.

It starts promisingly enough. Through a bank of the aforementioned CCTV monitors, we watch the residents of a London borough go about their day. In a marketplace, a white van reverses into a space it’s not supposed to be and while stall holders and customers protest, it explodes. In echoes of July 7, 2005, it would seem that terror has hit the shores of the UK.

This accounts for the first five minutes of the movie and just as it’s getting exciting, we jump six months in the future where we learn that a supposed Islamic terrorist mastermind is being held awaiting trial for the atrocity and from this point on the CCTV device is all but abandoned and it becomes about as interesting as guarding the sandwich aisle of Boots in the last half hour before closing.

We’re introduced to divorcee Martin Rose (Eric Bana), a lawyer for the defense who only winds up with the job because his predecessor took a long walk on a short rooftop. Or did he? Rose’s job is complicated because due to the nature of the crime, there is some information that cannot be divulged in open court and wouldn’t you know it but it’s the pointlessly hyphenated Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), Rose’s ex-mistress and reason for his divorce, who has already been appointed as special counsel and who is privy to all the juicy stuff that Rose doesn’t, and shouldn’t, get to hear. This clear conflict of interest is happily ignored until the plot demands that we all pay attention to it. And wouldn’t you believe it, but it turns out that the supposed terrorist may have some connections to the establishment that people would rather keep quiet. Nothing happens here that you don’t expect.

Bana and Hall deliver their exposition-laiden dialogue, from a Steven Knight script that has all the subtlety and style and nuance of a school nativity play,  with such wooden determination it becomes something of a surprise that they manage to last the movie’s 96 minute duration without being felled by Brazilian loggers and turned into a pack of Ikea’s finest. Only two performances leave the wrap party with anything like dignity and both are woefully underused. Jim Broadbent does what Jim Broadbent always seems to do and excels as a pathetic weasel of an Attorney General, and Riz Ahmed (star of Four Lions, a far more compelling view of terrorism in the UK) is convincing and threatening as an apparently wet-behind-the-ears intelligence officer.

Basics in terms of thrillers and in terms of general film-making simply fail. It may be worth mentioning to the editor that when you have the camera on Character One as they’re talking to Character Two and then cut to Character Two while still offering the back of the head of Character One while they complete their speech, it’s probably best to make Character One’s jaw move so it looks like he’s still talking, otherwise the spell gets a tad broken. Twice. Similarly to the music director, if you insist on breaking out the cello to deliver some thrilling music, it’s probably best to save it for when something thrilling is actually happening on screen and not using it at every opportunity. For example, watching Rose row along the Thames doesn’t meet this criteria.

It’s a turgid waste of time and even when, in the last ten minutes, it finally manages to become thrilling, it’s far too little, far too late. No matter how many cameras you choose to waste on a turkey, it’s always going to be a turkey. There’s a lesson for us all there.

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