When my Blu-ray review copy of 'Closed Circuit' first arrived, I noticed that the cover art touted it as being "from the producers of 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,'" and I thought to myself, "Ah, hell. Here comes another confusing, bloated and unsatisfying waste of my time." Fortunately, my judgements were incorrect. It's 94 minutes long, the plot isn't unnecessarily complex and it's not at all bad. The only problem is that 'Closed Circuit' is forgettable. Just one day after watching it with completely undivided attention, I cannot remember how certain crucial plot points came about.
The only aspect of 'Closed Circuit' that resembles 'Tinker Tailor' is the film's reliance upon words that are specific to England's legal system, terms that are completely foreign to anyone not familiar with their courts. It took me a little while to understand exactly who our main characters were in regards to their professional relationship, but once I got it, I could follow along with ease.
Our opening scene shows a London market from the viewpoint of the many closed circuit security cameras. As we watch, more and more camera angles are squeezed onto the screen. We see an odd thing – an unmarked moving van is slowly backed into the market's walkway. A few people yell to the driver that he's in the wrong place just before – KABOOM! – all we're able to see through the cameras is a blast of dust and debris. This shot reminded me of watching the baseball field suicide bomber from the opening scene of 'The Kingdom' - it's blunt, quick, violent (without showing a single thing) and not at all sensationalized.
Shortly thereafter, we meet our two leads. Eric Bana is barrister Martin Rose and Rebecca Hall is special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe. Therein are the two terms that were as foreign to me as Greek – barrister and special advocate. I had to learn on-the-fly what the two meant, but allow me to save you the grief. A barrister is a defense attorney and a special advocate is an additional defense attorney who's brought in to give a second point-of-view and has access to special evidence that may or may not add to the case. From what I understand, the special advocate is typically used in high profile cases that involve sensitive evidence regarding national security. Should the advocate deem it necessary, he/she may have have this evidence revealed to the barrister. Got it?
Several months after the terrorist marketplace bombing, when the case's depressed barrister commits suicide, his colleague Martin Rose is brought in to take his place and argue in defense of the accused suspect. Unfortunately, Claudia Simmons-Howe is the already-appointed special advocate. Why is that a problem? Because the two have a rocky romantic past and the legal systems requires that barristers and special advocates have no previous connection and no contact while the case is open. Both being bullheaded and not wanting to back off this high profile case, each lie while taking an oath over this case.
The evidence against the suspect is strong, but both Martin and Claudia take their jobs seriously and are bent on uncovering the truth. Of course, the deeper they get down the rabbit hole, the more dangerous the case becomes. These two characters, who aren't supposed to have any contact at all, are forced to work together to save the life of a potentially innocent man, as well as their own.
A few twists and turns lie ahead, but nothing that will leave your jaw agape. The same goes for the few tense moments of action. But when all is said and done, 'Closed Circuit' doesn't offer a single thing that hasn't been done many times before. Everything that happens is familiar of something you've already seen, ultimately causing it to get lost among the other titles filed away under "Legal Thrillers" in your memory bank.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has placed this Focus Features title on a BD-50 disc and given it an accompanying DVD and codes for both an iTunes and Ultraviolet digital copy. Both discs are housed in a two-disc blue Elite keepcase that comes with a matching embossed cardboard keepcase. Prior to the main menu, plenty of skippable content plays, including a Universal vanity reel and "fresh" streaming trailers provided courtesy of BD-Live.
'Closed Circuit' has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. If you don't count the real news footage used and the many times that we're shown closed circuit camera footage – which results in alternating aspect ratios – the picture quality is fantastic. The images are shown with clarity, depth and an occasionally noticeable dusting of film grain.
An overall cold palette is used throughout the entire picture, which is relevant for the gloomy and overcast London setting. Many shades of gray are used. Whites can appear extra bright given the setting. Blacks are solid and rich, which allows for things to be hidden in the shadows during tense moments. There aren't too many eye-catching colors, but whenever they come around, they're vibrant. For example, Julia Stiles plays a small character – a New York Times reporter – who dons a sleek red dress to a dinner party. Just as her entrance is supposed to be, the dress pops on the screen amidst the lack of colors.
There are great details to be seen within the picture. You'll see the smooth texture of Hall's complexion and the salt-and-pepper stubble on Bana's face. Clothing textures are also constantly noticeable. If only the story itself was as accomplished as this disc's video quality.
'Closed Circuit' does a fine job with its lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The opening credits sequence is set to a montage of news footage. Each bit of newscast that's featured emanates from a different speaker. This sort of dynamic mixing is frequently used throughout the film. Surround and rear channels are actively used to properly place sounds at their points of origin. When we view Bana rowing down the Thames, the splash of an oar cutting into the water off-screen is properly mixed with where it should be with relevance to our point-of-view. Drizzling rain, cheering soccer (football) crowds, pushy reporters and bustling city streets are just a few examples of strong sound mixing.
Vocal levels are proper, every word is intelligible over the other sounds. Bana's voice carries a nice, rich and deep resonance that's quite the audible treat once you acknowledge it. Music is always spread throughout the entire space and is used loudly during the film's several action/tense sequences.
Unfortunately, not all locations and voices call for such great sound mixing, but the audio is properly active when it needs to be.
I love a good tense legal thriller. And while 'Closed Circuit' has all of the ingredients of one, the final product doesn't hold a candle to the many genre classics. Bana and Hall are fine, but a lack of development in their characters creates a lack of chemistry. We ultimately want them to succeed solely because of their strong morals, not because of their relationship nor because of the trial. Sadly, 'Closed Circuit' is nothing more than a shell that's been filled with familiar elements. It's forgettable. Sadly, the story couldn't be as strong as the video and audio qualities. The major lack of special features is also another grand downside to this release. While 'Closed Circuit' may serve well as a great time-filler, it's nothing that you'd want to revisit frequently.