Much like Liar Liar before it, Closed Circuit shines a coruscating light on the lives of those sexy, affluent, highly aspirational hobgoblins we like to call lawyers.
Two lawyers in particular as it happens, they being Martin Rose (played by Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall).
So who are these rubes?
Let’s start with Martin – although given he’s a strutting, thrusting public schoolboy who struggles to keep his lamprey locked in his kecks, it’s perhaps more tempting to start on him.
Owner of one young son and one failed marriage, Martin is also blessed with an accent as perfectly cut-glass as the Queen’s sherry decanter. Except for those stray moments when he sounds like an Australian, but fortunately no one ever seems to pick up on those.
And what about Claudia? Well, she’s got a double-barrelled surname and you want to know what else she’s got two of?
Mmm, that’s right. Problems.
Firstly, she’s been assigned as Special Advocate to the high profile case of Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), a suspected Islamist terrorist accused of masterminding the devastating bomb attack on Borough Market that opens the film, leaving more than a hundred dead.
Despite the general opinion that the smack-addled Erdogan is guilty, closer inspection reveals the case against him to be fishier than the smell in a public school dormitory after one of the chaps got his paws on a jazz mag.
And problem number two: Farroukh’s defence lawyer is none other than Martin, whose bedpost – almost inevitably – Claudia has appeared as a notch on.
The professional distinction between the two is that, as SA, Claudia will hear the evidence against Farroukh deemed so sensitive it can only be disclosed in closed session when even the defendant isn’t present. Martin, meanwhile, fills the role of attorney, having taken up the slack after the suspect’s previous lawyer tossed himself off a tall building.
Now, far from being dull and/or confusing, as this insight into the realm of complex legal wrangling could well have proved, it actually turns out to be one of Closed Circuit’s greatest strengths – a rare narrative component which doesn’t feel as reheated as old leftovers.
After all, we all pore over the more lurid details of major terrorist attacks, only for the fascination to fade once the oft-Daedelean legal wrangling commences, at least till the verdict is announced. This movie actually does a decent job of underlining why the courtroom thrusting and parrying in such cases is worthy of keener interest, which is certainly to the credit of director John Crowley (Intermission) and screenwriter Steve Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things).
However if Closed Circuit scores on that count, then on several others it haplessly bundles the ball into its own net. The early QC stuff, for example, with the ex-lovers bickering away, plays like an ‘80s ITV exec’s idea of glossy telly, quite possibly adapted from a Jilly Cooper novel which had a pair of knockers barely concealed under a judicial robe as its cover.
Then there’s the film’s increasing indulgence of its own daft conspiracy thriller pretentions. So just as Martin and Claudia’s paranoia grows (a point underlined by Crowley’s use of CCTV footage, emphasising the heavily surveyed aspect of modern city living), so this causes the movie to morph into a cut-price, sub-par version of Enemy of the State. Okay, it might be more realistic than Hollywood, but not to so great an extent as to make the lacklustre chase scenes ever seem worth the bother.
What’s even more irritating however is the paper-thin characters handed to some excellent actors. Ciarán Hinds, for instance, is wasted as Martin’s sturdy associate Devlin. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Duff’s secret service bitch Melissa is even lamer, being written as a frustrated, snarling cow, hissing threats at Martin like he’s knocked over her pint of wine in Yates’s on a particularly pissed-up Friday night.
Thank the gods of British film for Jim Broadbent, superbly sinister as an avuncular Attorney General whose pronouncements are delivered in that weird Blairesque blend of management consultant jargon and pub chitchat. The old boy’s not been so menacing since DCI Roy Slater was putting Derek Trotter under the cosh.
Closed Circuit is released in the UK on 25 October