Throughout the film, we see through the closed-circuit televisions of the title. The screen bifurcates into two, then four, then eight, and so on, offering views all around. Views of the Borough Marketplace are all bustle and bristle, chatter and elbows. Each CCTV screen shows activity. Then all screens register a bomb going off. It could be Boston this year or the Pentagon in 2001 or Syria now, but it is London's West End.
Right away, the government arrests "the last man standing and, therefore, evil incarnate." The legal system along with MI5 goes into overdrive. So does the exposition, for this film depends on knowledge of that legal system to understand the need for two barristers, one to hold secret documents. Neither may talk to the other. The original lawyer dies and is replaced by a sculler named Martin Rose, played by Eric Bana, also seen in "Hanna." The secret-holder is Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Rebecca Hall from "The Town." Simmons-Howe is not to be intimidated, especially by her handler, played by Riz Ahmed. Ahmed, a Brit who looks like a Middle Eastern version of Robert Downey Jr., is also a hip-hop artist who played in "Four Lions."
The tricky part of Stephen Knight's screenplay is that the two barristers are former lovers. The lawyers must lie about their affair to keep this assignment although lying means they may lose their careers. Unfortunately, actors Bana and Hall have little or no chemistry, either as former lovers or as antagonistic lawyers.
The stalwart cast comprises the great Jim Broadbent, doing his imitation of Salman Rushdie in his role as Attorney General; Ciarán Hinds; Anne-Marie Duff as a traffic controller (or is she?) wearing the worst wig in the world; and Julia Stiles as a New York Times reporter.
John Crowley directed the film, which is talkier than usual for a cloak-and-dagger movie. When the new lawyer insists on seeing all the documents in the case, Crowley's cameras pan an office snowed in by paper. In a singular flashback, Crowley shows Simmons-Howe and Rose dancing, and for a brief moment, Rose is seen with his angry ex-wife. However, Crowley concentrates on exploiting the intrigue in Knight's plot rather than on the noise of car-chases and gunshots.
"Closed Circuit" is tight and timely, what with all those secrets. It is a well-made, and cynical, look at so-called justice.