Screenwriter Steven Knight has the narrative nose of an investigative journalist. His screenplays for films like Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises took audiences down dark alleyways complete with noirish thrills and gritty kink that tapped into our desire for raw voyeuristic experiences beyond the pale, but there was always the gnawing sense that these worlds contained a frightening core of truth in the details. His latest, Closed Circuit, continues the trend opening up in post-9/11 England with the trial of a suspected terrorist mastermind, the man behind the bombing of a busy open market, which was captured on the surveillance feeds of several closed circuit cameras in the vicinity.
The film presents a switching back and forth between the actual events of the day in question and the cameras. It is unnerving, not because we, as an audience, haven’t seen this presentation before, but because it is now rooted in the real world of the war on terror, forcing us to confront questions of the nature of surveillance in our daily lives and its impact on our civil liberties. The concern in Knight’s thriller is: What happens when it’s the watchers who have secrets that get exposed by the cameras? Defense lawyers Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) work through their own complicated history together, while attempting to stay one step ahead of the nefarious powers that be. There is a solid workmanlike efficiency in the execution of the plot that approximates journalistic adherence to only the pertinent facts. Knight and director John Crowley (Boy A) keep their noses to the grindstone and reveal a penchant for polemic posturing that, while a bit preachy, lays out a familiar gospel of modern truth that should not be ignored. Now in theaters. (R) Grade: B-