John Crowley thinks we’re being watched. We already know that because Edward Snowden, whistle blower, told us so.
Somewhere in all of our cities, there are quiet rooms where walls of multi-screen videos live. Store fronts are on it, traffic movement is on it. You are on it. No, they’re not really looking for you. You and me, we’re just video collateral damage.
In “Closed Circuit,” an exciting new political/terrorist thriller by British director John Crowley, the action begins with such a multi-screen view of a huge shopping mart in a section of London.
Someone, of course, is watching this screen. There are just people here, like you and me. Then, there aren’t. They’re gone, gone in a blast, a huge cyclone of wind and noise and dust. Some 250 people are dead, men, women and children. Did the someone watching the screen know this was going to happen? Could he have stopped it? We’ll never know.
I’ve seen “Closed Circuit,” and I can tell you little about it. One word, one glance would give it all away. They’re watching me.
In Crowley’s tightly wound, well edited and cleverly paced thriller, we’ll meet those who think they know, and we’ll be there at the end when they find out that they really don’t. We’re in Kafka country here, in Le Carre’s London, Orwell’s shabby halls. Seconds after the blast, the police and their suited, rain-coated co-harts, England’s MI5, raid some buildings, kick down some doors, roust out the felons in record time, as if rehearsed. Of course, the bad guy is Middle Eastern. They’ve got him. Bloody good job, jolly well done. All is well. Until it isn’t.
Eric Bana (“Hanna,” “Munich”) who seems to have been born to play these parts, is Martin Rose, a proper London barrister, going through a messy divorce, and who reluctantly agrees to represent the alleged terrorist (Farroukh Erdogan.)
Rebecca Hall (“The Town”) is Claudia Simmons-Howe, respected daughter of a deceased famous judge. She has been selected to represent the accused as well, but with a twist. She has to represent British intelligence’s interest in the case. Both will sit in a special private court with the accused, where evidence will be heard by a royal judge. Another twist: neither is allowed to speak to the other. Under a new British law, they cannot share information.
Does everyone know that they once had a torrid affair? Someone does.
Crowley fills his script with enigmas and his streets with suspicious faces. These are not dark, shadowy “The Third Man” faces. Le Carre’s foggy, damp streets are now bright and sunny. Men and women eating ice cream cones and shopping for fruit smile as we pass. There is the cordial chap in the arena who will snap your picture. Over there is the Chinese chef, chatting with the Indian restaurant owner, the lady on the park bench watches the jogger.
Much of the film is filled with polite conversations over tea and toast, brandy and cheese, in marble halls and secluded apartments that have fabulous views of other apartments with fabulous windows. Then there are the alleys, quiet streets. Yes. People will die here, some you will like, even admire, trust and respect. Some will surprise you, others won’t.
Eric Bana, who was so good at the game in “Hanna” and “Munich,” where he knew his way around a weapon, has none here. He sheds that role and gives us a straight-arrow attorney, who soon discovers that a mirror is not always a mirror, and that cab drivers are not always cab drivers.
Rebecca Hall, who played Boston born and bred with Ben Afleck in “The Town,” returns to her British tone and posture. Hall and Bana are a pair well matched to wear the robes, and shed them.
Crowley fills the playbook with extraordinary faces: The wonderful Ciaran Hinds, Irish actor with a thousand faces, is Rose’s best friend. The great Jim Broadbent, who can play any role, is our by-the-book Attorney General. Broadbent is the indispensable element in spy games or Gilbert and Sullivan, in comedies or weepers. Enjoy him.
And who else would you call for help than Julia Stiles who befriended Jason Bourne and saved his life twice? Here, she is Joanna Reece of The New York Times, eager to help our hero survive.
Director Crowley and his cinematographer Adriano Goldman give us a delicious thriller to chew on. Will you like the ending? This is Kafka Boulevard and Le Carre Avenue. There is no ending.
J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.