“There’s a quarter in your ear…no, wait, that’s a government tracking device.”
  • “There’s a quarter in your ear…no, wait, that’s a government tracking device.”
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What’s this? An intelligent, paranoid suspense thriller with no bullets fired, zero special effects, two sizzling romantic leads who don’t kiss (let alone hit the sheets), and the good sense to pack a tripod?!

Summer’s over. Adults are once again free to move about the multiplex.

Directed by John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A), Closed Circuit opens on a bank of a dozen or so police monitors keeping watch on a crowded London market. Before given a chance to ponder whether or not Crowley’s surveillance cameras — which are capable of simultaneously zooming and panning to follow the movements of 12 individuals — take some artistic license, a terrorist bomb reduces the scene to rubble.

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Closed Circuit ****

A Turkish suspect (Denis Moschitto), the only surviving member of the reported terrorist cell, is taken into custody. The evidence that the government plans to use against him is so hush-hush that neither the bomber nor his lawyer can see it. Enter Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), a Special Advocate appointed by the Attorney General (Jim Broadbent) who is allowed access to the classified documents. One snag: there’s to be no contact between Claudia and the defendant or his council.

This might not have been so difficult had Claudia and defense barrister Martin Rose (Eric Bana) been casual colleagues instead of former lovers. In order to make it legal, the two must hide their doused past from the judge.

She dines on Chinese takeout in a perfectly appointed glass-and-chrome high rise while he passes out on a battered leather sofa in his dank flat. For a contemporary suspense picture that runs a little over 90 minutes, it’s amazing that Crowley and screenwriter Steven Knight actually reserve a chunk of screen time to offer a glimpse into the lives of the professionally and romantically bound couple when they’re alone and outside of chambers.

The suspense builds to heights that rival the towering stacks of evidentiary documents, which are all neatly bound by pretty pink ribbons. Two parallel interrogations seamlessly cut together to form one. It’s one of the damnedest things I’ve seen in a theater this year. Let’s hope that the Academy remembers editor Lucia Zucchetti come Oscar time. Better yet, snub him and really prove his worth.

Two things keep me from tacking on another star. An unnecessary third act reveal is the film’s only concession to Hollywood formula. And for a tightly constructed throwback that thankfully places story and character ahead of CG explosions, the filmmakers didn’t know when to put an amen on it.

Some of you have written to complain about my habit of opening a review with an obscure reference to ancient cinema. To you, I close with Adam’s Rib.

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