Movie Review:‘Closed Circuit’ keeps audience guessing

A few weeks ago, the wannabe thriller “Paranoia” badly failed to live up to its name.

“Closed Circuit” fares considerably better.

Not only does the new film unleash plenty of creeped-out dread, but also, the storyline perfectly encapsulates its title.

In addition to the many surveillance cameras – used here to far greater effect than they were in “Paranoia” – “Closed Circuit” is exactly that: a tale in which, like most government-conspiracy thrillers, there really seems to be no way out.

Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall star as London barristers defending the young Turk accused of masterminding a deadly mid-city bombing.

Their case is complicated by the fact that the two are former lovers; and on top of that, they soon learn that the plaintiff was actually a mole for the British Secret Service – one whose hoped-for infiltration of a terrorist cell went horribly awry.

Was he operating as a triple agent, thus betraying his British employers? Or did his own fellow-terrorists suspect the truth and implicate him deliberately?

More to the point, will Britain’s MI5 admit its role, honorably defending the suspect and his family despite the resulting public scandal?

Not bloody likely.

Bana and Hall swiftly find themselves targeted for take-out, with scarcely a friendly face in sight.

A word of caution for genre fans, however: “CC” is not your standard conspiracy thriller, with the usual twisty, breakneck plot that keeps escalating in terror and mayhem.

No, screenwriter Steven Wright – whose “Eastern Promises” remains lodged knifelike in my brain after more than six years – is less interested in keeping you guessing than in getting you thinking.

Indeed, some will find the film’s climax a letdown, as it features no sudden revelation, no tooth-and-nail chase, no action, no explosions.

Unostentatious yet tense and gripping, the ending asks exactly how high a price should be paid for integrity – whether lives, families and relationships can justly be sacrificed to uncover the truth; and whether this would really do any good anyway.

(Some judicious audio in the closing moments makes final poignant comment on this issue).

Knight manages the relationship between Bana and Hall with subtlety and conviction, aided by solid performances from both; Hall, daughter of beloved British stage director Peter, probably couldn’t give a bad performance if she tried.

I was even more impressed by the veteran character actor Ciaran Hinds as Bana’s trusted comrade; by Hasancan Cifci as the defendant’s crafty teenage son; and by Riz Ahmed as a smilingly dangerous MI5 agent.

I’ve now read several reviews on this film and can’t see eye to eye with those who disliked it; “CC” held me firmly from start to finish, with one nice surprise and a very unexpected denouement.

For my part, I wish more paranoid thrillers would aspire to this sort of low-key thoughtfulness.