Appearances can be deceiving in "Closed Circuit," a mystery-thriller-romance that is conspicuously missing three things. One is mystery, another is thrills and the last is anything approaching romance.
Instead, "Closed Circuit" offers a fashionably topical but typically clumsy script about terrorism, governmental secrecy and our increasingly surveilled society. The movie begins with security-camera footage of a London bombing, then dives into the closed-door trial of the suspect, Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). After his lawyer dies -- hmmm -- hotshot Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is named as a replacement. Martin will work parallel to special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), but because of the top-secret evidence in the case, the two are forbidden from having any contact. Too late -- they once had an affair.
Hot-button politics, legal chess games and sexual tension might have made for an enjoyable mix if "Closed Circuit" didn't take itself so seriously. It comes on urgent and complex, but its script (by Steve Knight, of "Eastern Promises") is pure paperback pulp, pocked with the usual holes and knotted with the most obvious twists. The cast is fine, but every character -- from the deep-digging journalist (Julia Stiles) to the shadowy attorney general (Jim Broadbent) to the faithful friend (Ciaran Hinds) -- turns out to be exactly who you expected.
All of this would have been perfectly forgivable if our heroes did something, anything, to hold our interest. They ought to be using their fists, escaping death, removing each other's clothing or even just breaking a light sweat. In "Closed Circuit" they do such things rarely, if at all. Bana and Hall, attractive and inert, spend the movie mostly delivering meaningful glances and pregnant pauses.
Director John Crowley ("Boy A") tries to gin up tension by constantly spying on his actors from faraway vantage points, but this only reduces them to specks in crowds or small figures in high-rise windows. The characters aren't very interesting up close, either. Throw them together in a luxe hotel room where they're momentarily safe, and what do they do? She takes a hot shower, he moves in close and then . . . they keep talking about the case. The biggest conspiracy in "Closed Circuit" is an attempt to sell a dull movie as entertainment.
PLOT Two British lawyers hide their romantic past to work on a high-profile terrorism case.
CAST Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Julia Stiles
BOTTOM LINE Lots of meaningful glances and pregnant pauses, but very little else in this fashionably topical but disappointingly dull thriller.