When the film company Working Title approached director John Crowley with the script for Closed Circuit, a film about two London-based lawyers who find themselves at a moral crossroads, he immediately liked what he read.
"I was looking for a contemporary, smart thriller," he says. "The idea of one set in the English legal world fascinated me. One of the things that [screenwriter] Steve [Knight] does very well is revealing a world within a world. It's a slightly different version of a London you don't know so well."
The film centers on lawyer Martin (Eric Bana) and special advocate Claudia (Rachel Hall). Former lovers, they lie about their romantic past in order to take the highly sensitive case regarding a terrorist who detonated a bomb in London.
Because of security reasons, Martin and Claudia will review some materials in private. They eventually realized that the case implicates the British secret service, and they've been chosen precisely because their compromised position ensures they won't attempt to reveal the incriminating information. While the film's not based on a true story , it's an accurate representation of the British legal system.
"The idea of special advocates working behind closed quarters didn't particularly trouble me, I must be honest," says Crowley. "It was something I knew about but the more I read about it, it seemed like a fascinating place or context to tell a story and be the place to ask a question about how we deal with terrorism. I think the film isn't limited to being about the English legal system. What's fascinating to me is that system is such a closed world unto itself. I wanted to see if we could lift the lid and look inside."
The "look inside" is a thrilling one and the storyline takes a few twists along the way before the dust settles. While the legal stuff is accurate (Bana and Hall even spent time in court while studying for their respective roles), it's not the film's main focus.
"I don't think you need expertise to enjoy the film," says Crowley. "It's a complicated thriller that doesn't make it easy for you. It should be okay to not have to over-explain everything. You feel the shards of this broken relationship in the film that works itself out."
He does hope that its message about secrets and surveillance comes through.
"We can ask how comfortable one is with what the government is doing on our behalf to protect us and what happens if there are nefarious elements in there that aren't so ethical," he says. "That's not an easy question to answer."