Courtroom capers

Closed Circuit is riveting in some parts, ho-hum in others but watchable as a whole

Courtroom capers
Crime and punishment. Is it that simple? Punishment doesn’t always follow crime; what does are lawyers, trials and arguments. Crime thriller Closed Circuit says it all. Directed by John Crowley (Intermission) and written by Steven Knight, the Focus Features’ actioner stars Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent, Denis Moschitto and Riz Ahmed.

It’s a fine morning, when a shockwave brings London to a grinding halt — a busy market has been devastated by an explosion. The police swoop in and begin a manhunt of mammoth proportions. They’re able to zero in on the only surviving member of the terrorist cell responsible. Farroukh Erdogan (Moschitto) is jailed and the stage is set for one of the most high-profile trials in British history.

The hitch comes here. The British government plans to use classified evidence — that can’t be seen by either the suspect or his lawyers - to prosecute Erdogan. That’s when the attorney general (Broadbent) decides to appoint a special advocate, an additional government-approved defense lawyer, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Hall). Hall will be the only one who can peruse classified evidence and can argue for its disclosure when the trial moves to “closed” session. But once she learns the “secret”, she’ll be in a closed circuit of sorts; she can communicate with no one —neither the defendant nor other members of the defence team.

The case is about to go to trial when Erdogan’s lawyer dies, forcing a new defense attorney, the tenacious and driven Martin Rose (Bana), to step in. The case pits Rose against the brilliant Simmons-Howe, with whom he once shared a romantic relationship. In the midst of the courtroom drama of the century, the two lawyers decide to keep their past hidden and focus on the present. Rose begins to dig into a dangerous web of secrets and lies, and finds all evidence pointing to a possible British Secret Service cover-up. As he begins to put pieces of the jigsaw into place, he and Simmons-Howe are drawn to each other again. As a sinister conspiracy emerges, the terrorism case will test their loyalties and put their lives at stake.

Crowley was keen to make an “accurate representation” of the British legal world, believing that people live with clichés courtesy television dramas. “A great array of players” was chosen to support Bana and Hall, and to create an ensemble feeling. The director also called for a rigorous two weeks’ rehearsal with the cast before production began.

Bana and Hall got the most homework — they were to familiarise themselves with the British justice system. The duo accompanied Barrister Tim Owen, QC, who has been involved with Closed Circuit as legal advisor and executive producer. They, along with Crowley, made time for cases to learn about processes and intricacies.

Bana had an additional task: He had to learn to row. His introductory scene shows him “sculling” down the Thames, and he’s shown as a dedicated rower. The writer made Rose a rower because it allowed journeying down the Thames, seeing the “MI5 and the House of Parliament buildings staring at each other”!

The courtroom drama is riveting in parts; ho-hum in others. But, on the whole — makes for an eminently watchable film — especially on a rainy day when house arrest is getting you down!

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