Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Closed Circuit

I hadn't been in one of the Somerville's even-numbered screens since the post-IFFBoston upgrade. Still got the center aisle, but huzzah for more legroom!

As to the movie itself, I spend a fair amount of time in the review complaining that I've seen its conspiracy material before and done with more excitement. It makes me wonder if there's a good movie to be made along the lines of my reaction to this: Given that post-9/11 America has more or less accepted that the government is corporate-controlled, Constitutional protections are apparently easily avoided, and the President can send flying robot assassins after "enemy combatants" without a lot of due process - and the press seems more or less toothless in the face of heavily-redacted documents and explanations that boil down to "national security, trust us" - what would have to happen to shake us up? What's the moment of overreach that provokes a reaction?

I mean, the stuff we see in Closed Circuit and read on the net is appalling, but we're numb. And while I'm pretty sure that I'd be shocked and angry if this played out in real life, I'm not sure. I definitely know that I need more in a movie now, though, and the fact that I'm not saying "this is ridiculous, democratic governments don't do this" instinctively, or requiring an extraordinary bastard of a villain (which Jim Broadbent provides, but not as a singular force) is worrisome.

Closed Circuit

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 9 September 2013 in Somerville Theatre #4 (first-run, 2K DCP)

It says something about humanity, the world we live in, or perhaps just me personally, that I'm bored by the brand of paranoia that keeps Closed Circuit running. Is that in spite of how visible abuse of power has become, or because of it? I'm not sure. It creates a strange paradox, though: What should be dry legal procedure here here becomes a lot more intriguing than the life-and-limb stuff it leads to.

The court case that sets the action in motion is trial of Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), a Turkish immigrant who is accused of masterminding the explosion that killed dozens in a London outdoor market six months prior. His barrister has committed suicide, so a new attorney, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is starting from scratch very close to the trial. The wrinkle is that because some of the evidence is far too sensitive to put into the hands of a suspected terrorist or his representative, a special advocate, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is assigned to review the material separately and argue for its inclusion in closed court. They are not allowed to have any contact, and thus conceal that they are former lovers. As they individually discover that something doesn't smell right, Martin is contacted by an American reporter (Julia Stiles), while Claudia is watched by a friendly spy (Riz Ahmed).

Writer Steven Knight asks an interesting question here: How does one conduct a fair trial in situations like this, where the demands of justice and security seem to oppose each other so directly? As dull as legal maneuvering might seem to the layman, this situation provides both a clearly-stated problem and a potentially unique way to structure the plot with two leads working separately that could serve as commentary on the situation - does dividing the labor in this way put the defendant at an inherent disadvantage? Could the prosecution be hoisted on their own petard because Claudia might supply Martin with evidence he wouldn't think to look for himself? There's material for a pretty great courtroom drama in this set-up.

Full review at EFC.

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