Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Closed Circuit [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Closed Circuit [2013] (directed by John Crowley, screenplay by Steven Knight) is a somewhat predictable film about the current Anglo-American status of things in the war on terror.  That is, though set in the U.K., the story could have easily been set in the United States as well.

In the opening sequence of the film, a truck bomb explodes in an open air produce market in London.  The attack is chronicled by at least a dozen security cams but there appeared nothing that security forces could have done to prevent it.

The rest of the film is about the lead-up to the trial of the attack's supposed ring-leader, a Turkish immigrant named Faroukh Erdogan (played by Denis Moschitto) arrested a few days after the attack at his home in London.  Faroukh had moved back to London three years previous after having been "away" (where? well... somewhere...) several years previous, and when he had returned he had frequented various (radical) mosques in the London area.  We're also told that he was turned-in by a source that the authorities would not like to disclose.  So, and this is the film ... Faroukh was going to be tried under a famously problematic post-9/11 (or in the U.K. post 7/7) legal regime.

What kind of legal regime?  Well, at least part of his trial was going to be held in secret to protect the authorities' "sources and methods."  Neither the defendant nor his primary defense attorney (played in the film by Eric Bana) were going to be allowed to see the secret evidence against the defendant tying him to the bombing.   Instead, A SEPARATE attorney (played in the film by Rebecca Hall) with appropriate clearance was going to see (and argue in parallel if secret proceedings) this secret evidence.  Thus the open trial would quite literally be "for show."  The real action was going to be held in secret, though FOR SOME REASON there remained the belief on the part of the society/legal system that the "open trial" would somehow reach the same conclusions as the secret one (despite not ever seeing and challenging/vetting secret evidence against the defendant). 

Such a story basically writes itself:  For I am positive that any group of 3-4 twenty-year olds given a description of the legal regime in which such a trial would proceed could come up with truly innumerable ways that such a trial would end in disaster (at minimum for the defendant and quite possibly for society as well).

Indeed, I remember well when this kind of legal regime was being imposed in the U.S. in the years after 9/11.  I remember wondering: Wait a minute, one (I/we) could be simply abducted from the streets (err ... "arrested") by shadowy, black-garbed / black-masked security personnel, held indefinitely in some "undisclosed location" (secret prison) somewhere, charged, tried, convicted, sentenced and even shot all on basis of evidence that one (I/we) would never be allowed to see and without the authorities never needing to acknowledge that they even had one (me/us) in custody ALL TO PROTECT "SOURCES AND METHODS."
And to be honest, while the (never acknowledged but no doubt stroke induced) half-smiling G.W. Bush-era V.P. Dick Cheney is long gone, none of this has really gone away under the better smiling / more photogenic Obama Administration. 

Anyway, this film plays out one of really countless possible "nightmare scenarios" that could occur when a court system / security apparatus isn't required to be openly accountable to the citizenry, and we do live in a time when we are asked to simply trust the powers that be.

Is this a great film?  To be honest, not particularly, but it reminds us (again) of the times in which we live.

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