Film review: Closed Circuit (2013, no spoilers)

This film is set in London and begins with a terrorist bombing at a crowded market that kills 120 people. An immigrant from Turkey who has a wife and teenage son is immediately arrested on the basis of a tip and accused of being the mastermind of the plot.

The British government invokes national security and sets in motion a trial system that consists of both open and closed court hearings. The defendant is assigned two lawyers, one (played by Eric Bana who looks like Tom Cruise without the smirk) to appear in the open trial and the other (played by Rebecca Hall) in the closed one. Only the second lawyer can see the classified material and cannot have any communication with the other lawyer. The closed trial excludes everyone except the judge, the prosecutor, the single defense lawyer, and the stenographer. Even the defendant cannot be present.

I cannot discuss the film much more without giving away the plot. But it is a low-key thriller in which the story is kept lean and focused, with minimal action. What it does show is how the British government is just like the US government in abusing its power to monitor everyone all the time legally and illegally and to corrupt the judicial system and hide its own wrongdoing.

Here’s the trailer.


  1. AsqJames says

    Not that they aren’t issues of concern, but there can’t be many people who don’t know the UK has lots of CCTV cameras and the spy agencies’ nefarious deeds are also already well documented in films and journalism.

    By contrast many will see the “extraordinary” legal procedures depicted in this film as a warning about a possible future…but they already exist in the UK. The US may have one-sided military tribunals in Guantanamo, but we’ve actually incorporated some very similar rules into major parts of our domestic legal system.

    To quote a Guardian article from 2012:

    CMPs are used in employment tribunals, special immigration appeals commission (SIAC) hearings and the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which handles complaints about the intelligence services. The justice and security bill would extend closed material procedures into the main civil courts, allowing the government to exploit intelligence material to defend itself against allegations such as torture.

    CMPs are “closed material proceedings” where only the judge, prosecutor and “special advocate” can see the “special material”. The special advocate cannot tell their client exactly what the evidence against him/her is.

    The justice and security bill was passed into UK law in 2013…the same year this film was released in cinemas.

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