Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” Never is this more true than in Irishman John Crowley’s creation of “Closed Circuit”, a look at the moral morass that lies beneath a terrorist bombing in a British train station that has less than clear cut motives and involvement by the British government.
When a post-9/11 bombing kills dozens of people in a crowded train station in downtown London, the British government takes a series of highly watched legal maneuvers to assure the public that this case will be solved with no expense spared, no rock unturned to seek justice. Eric Bana plays Martin Rose, the lead in the defense, and Rebecca Hall plays Claudia Simmons-Howe, who has been specially appointed to manage and protect evidence that could affect national security. Everyone is to be watched by the government to assure that there are no holes in the case and that there is no inappropriate contact between parties that could lead to a mistrial. The government wants a conviction of the lone terrorist who was caught after the bombing.
While the title of the film suggests that there is a lot of spying of the public going on through cameras in every public location, the real focus of the story is on what the cameras cannot see, namely, the motives and relationships of the key players. Martin Rose who is defending the terrorist and Claudia Simmons-Howe who is the national security advisor are to have little contact outside of the courtroom and they have pledged to the government that they will abide by this rule. What they did not tell the government was that they were former lovers and she was the rationale for Martin’s marriage dissolving.
To add intrigue to the story, the lead Prosecutor commits suicide. Or did he? Maybe he uncovered a “dirty little secret” in the British government and their covert relationship with the terrorist bomber. This theory takes on more credibility when both Martin and Claudia begin to uncover the same information, and then find themselves being chased by paid assassins.
We won’t give away what everyone uncovers or how the trial proceeds, but the question that we are confronted with is: What is moral and just? Do all ends justify the means? Is there no accountability for what the secret services of our county’s do? In the name of national security, have we traded off all of our freedoms and rights, including the right to not be watched by closed circuit cameras everywhere?
Some of the most disturbing conversations that occurred after the World Trade Center bombing on September 11, 2001, sounded the notion that for the sake of national security, we might just have to forgo the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. The government needs to know everything about what you are doing in order to provide peace and security for all the citizens of the United States. Some people who have stood up out of moral concern are branded as traitors to our nation. In “Closed Circuit”, some good people may have to be sacrificed for the good of the whole nation.
In our post-modern culture where people pass self-righteous judgment on others daily in a feeding frenzy of rootless morality, our governments have raised the art of bending the truth to protect the social and political order to a new level when it comes to protecting our national interests. “Closed Circuit” is a heart-thumping drama with a lot of twists and turns. More importantly, though, it may be a “wake up call” for all of us to watch carefully what our governments do in the name of freedom and democracy.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. What freedom are you willing to give up to be safe? In what way will that change you?
2. The experience of being watched by a government is increasingly true. How much surveillance do you believe our government has on each of us – cell phone, bank records, traffic habits? On what basis do you believe this?
3. The desire to infiltrate terrorist groups could cause more danger. Do you believe we should engage in such governmental operations?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.